WETZSTEIN: U.S. narcissism out of control

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In the 1970s, the phrase “Me Generation” was coined to describe America’s new obsession with self-fulfillment.

Thirty years later, the Me Generation has not only grown up, it has mutated and spread like kudzu into our younger generations. Now we have the “Me, Myself and I Generation,” aka “Me-my-eyes.”

This is not a blue-ribbon achievement for our country. Evidence is mounting that we are becoming far, far too full of ourselves, a nation of self-indulgent, attention-seeking, egotistical phonies, say authors of two new books on American narcissism.

It’s easy to recognize our most famous Me-my-eyes. They are the camera-ready men and women who have the most fabulous lives, the most Twitterable thoughts, the most outrageous never-ending personal dramas.

They’re hot.

Who’s not hot are the Me-my-eyes in your classroom, your workplace, your neighborhood or your living room.

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It’s not always just about you

Watching the antics of a Paris Hilton, Russell Crowe, Amy Winehouse or Charlie Sheen on TV or the Web can be (mildly) entertaining. Actually living with a “diva” sister, belligerent boyfriend or drug- or sex-addicted roommate is like hanging around Harry Potter’s dementors — they will suck the happiness and peace out of everyone’s life.

“The levels of narcissistic behavior in our culture appear to be at an all-time high,” write Dr. Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young in their new book, “The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America.”

This is not some benign trend, they warn. The unhealthy level of narcissism in the culture “is causing damage to our relationships, our families and the fabric of society.”

What’s wrong with living large? Plenty of things, say Dr. Pinsky, an addiction-medicine specialist and host of VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew,” and Mr. Young, who teaches entertainment business at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

In Celebrity Land, people often are caught up in problems in four areas — body image (i.e., obesity, eating disorders, excessive plastic surgery), hypersexuality (i.e., infidelity, serial dating, exhibitionism), substance abuse, and harmful acting out (i.e., pulling stunts seen on defunct reality shows like “Jackass” and “Wildboyz”).

Celebrities seem to get away with these “bad boy” or “bad girl” behaviors. It even fuels their popularity, Dr. Pinsky said.

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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