Thursday, March 01, 2007

YouTube and Self-Esteem

I wrote about self-esteem some time ago, specifically about a meta-study that showed there is no scientific basis for the belief that self-esteem is good for you. Now American research has found an epidemic of narcissism among college students. Curiously it is not just the misguided educational cult of promoting self-esteem that is blamed, but also social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube which 'permit self-promotion far beyond that allowed by traditional media'. This makes sense. Harmless and even benign as these sites may seem, they do encourage a me-me-me posture towards the world - as, I'm afraid, do blogs. All these devices make one aware of a much larger chorus of competing voices than the old networks of friends and families. It becomes necessary, therefore, to shout ever louder. I had previously been thrilled by these developments, but this gives me pause. Self-esteem is frequently highest among criminals and, as the latest report's lead author says: 'I'm concerned that we are heading to a society where people are going to treat each other badly, either on the street or in relationships.' It would be peculiarly irritating to be mugged by a YouTuber who felt exceptionally good about himself.

10 comments:

  1. Myspace, blogs and Youtube sometimes allow people to reach a large audience, but they always force them to confront the size of the competition and their own insignificance in the scheme of things. A bit like the box in The Hitchiker's Guide, which shows you the size of the universe and an arrow saying 'You are here.'

    The only way it can go is louder, as you say - for the same reason that people in London or NY have to have outrageous clothes and hairstyles to get noticed, and indeed for the same reason that forest trees are tall.

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  2. will you start a campaign to stop blogging in order to reduce criminality?

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  3. I am considering just that, Unslicker, or I may go out for a spot of light mugging.

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  4. I would prefer the surrealism of anti-blogging blogging. A la Tim Ireland perhaps?

    But if mugging it is then, we can look forward to a crime wave.

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  5. Looking at your blogging stats is a great way to reduce any possibility of an overweening self-esteem.

    BTW, New York magazine's cover story recently was about the perils of praising your kids too much.

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  6. I suppose all this Me Me Me stuff is an extension of the Romantic Age which someone mentioned the other day in relation to art, I think. Though this cult of the personality which is exalted when in the form of a genius, appears perhaps silly in the form of eh...someone of less exalted depths. And the question then arises whether this is a parody or an indictment of Romanticism's stress on the individual.

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  7. This argument doesn't work for me as I'd have thought that self-esteem is unmeasurable. I can imagine that the measures can identify 'people who profess self-esteem', but that would put an entirely different complexion on the debate.

    As for criminals, again, I doubt it. What you are probably looking at is an over-compensation for lack of self-esteem. In my personal experience, all the kids that I grew up with who ended up as criminals had dads that hit them/mums that drank or some such. Self-esteem was never their problem, at least when they were young. And whatever they paraded as self-esteem as the nasty adults they sometimes became, probably wasn't self-esteem as you mean it. And it certainly wasn't going to be affected by them having a blog!

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  8. It seems like every commercial is telling me how wonderful I am and how I deserve whatever crap they are selling. I deserve a vacation in Cancun. I deserve a Hummer. I deserve Godiva chocolate.

    So, do you think blogging is a little like masturbation for many bloggers?

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  9. Related to your point, Tom, there's a brilliant BBC series, A Century of the Self, about the creation of this self which should be nourished by such luxury goods. All related to psychological theories of Freud and the gang. The key man behind this manipulation of the masses, Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund F. Very highly recommended:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2637635365191428174

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  10. The Harvard political scientist Harvey Mansfield decided to award two grades for each student paper: the A+ Harvard students expect of right, and the C- he thought the work deserved. I suppose if one were to criticise the little dears' work, one might be had up for 'abuse'.

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