If you are literate today, it does not mean you can write — not even close to it in many cases. But if you were literate in 1863, even if you could not spell, you often could write descriptively and meaningfully. In the century and a half since, we have evolved from word to image creatures, devaluing the power of the written word and turning ourselves into a species of short gazers, focused on the emotions of the moment rather than the contemplative thoughts about consequences and meaning of our actions. Many everyday writers in the mid-19th century were far more contemplative, far more likely to contextualize the long-term meaning of their actions. They meticulously observed and carefully described because, although photography was the hot new medium during the Civil War, words remained the dominant way of communicating thought, memory, aspiration, hope.
Raasch’s theory is not a new one. Back in the 1980’s, when Internet was still in its primordial days and television was king, Neil Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death. His book cautioned against the developing “Age of Show Business,” fed by television’s sensory, visual medium.
Postman believed three “ages” were prominent throughout information’s history: first, ancient oral cultures encouraged the preservation of information through spoken records and stories. When the printing press and writing became more prominent, oral cultures dissolved into the “Age of Exposition”: a time when written records were perceived as holding the greatest truth. Then as photography and videography developed, media began to change again—for the worse. Postman believed we would lose more than writing ability in the wake of the entertainment era: he warned of a depleting mental and emotional capacity. He believed we would become as obsessed with pleasure as the humans in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Postman’s descriptions of distracted, sensationalistic consumers relate well to Raasch’s “species of short gazers.”
We can only imagine what Postman would have said about the Internet; perhaps Raasch gives us a taste when he describes it as “the Great Din”: “Today, throwing barbs and brickbats into the Great Din of the Internet has become as second nature as breathing … The Great Din requires no forethought, no real calculation of purpose or result, no contemplative brake, no need to seek angles or views beyond those that reaffirm or reassure what we think right now.”
Is this truly the future of media? Will we lose any true, deep, thoughtful communication in its havoc of pixels and pictures?
One interesting counter-opinion comes from former Daily Beast editor Tina Brown. Having recently left the world of journalism for event production, Brown has told reporters that she no longer reads magazines herself—in fact, she thinks “the whole writing fad is so twentieth century” (in the words of New York Magazine). But rather than warning of impending havoc and din, Brown calls people back to oral communication: “I think you can have more satisfaction from live conversations,” she said, adding that we are “going back to oral culture where the written word will be less relevant.”
If we experience the “death of writing,” as Rassch puts it, could we come full-circle and return to the age of oral communication? Will grandfathers sit down with their grandchildren and tell them stories, like our ancestors so long ago? One can only hope; but if such an experience were truly to flower from “The Great Din,” it would be rather surprising.
Some say journalism is on the decline. Others, however, think this may be a golden age of journalism: the New York Times’ Bill Keller is belongs in the latter camp. In his Sunday column, he said he believes modern media prevents dictators from getting away with with propaganda and deception. New technology like auto-translate software has made foreign news even easier to procure. But there is a downside to this new media world, as well:
When practitioners of global reporting get together—as some of us did last week for a stimulating conference on the future of foreign news at Boston College—one question on the table is whether, for all the moaning, we are now enjoying a golden age of global news. My own view is: “yes, but.” I’ve already explained the “yes.” Now the “but.”
The problem with the cutbacks in professional foreign coverage is not just the loss of experience and wisdom. It’s the rise of—and exploitation of—the Replacements, a legion of freelancers, often untrained and too often unsupported. They gravitate to the bang-bang, because that’s what editors and broadcast producers will pay for. And chances are that nobody has their backs.
This new journalism reality is one in which freelancers risk their lives with no backing or safeguard, and often without a contract or formal assignment. Bill Keller cites Emma Beals, a British journalist, who believes that of 17 kidnapped foreign journalists being held by Syrian rebels, the majority are freelancers. This is the dangerous and unsavory side of modern reporting, Keller posits.
Keller pinpoints another disadvantage of modern media, more inhibitive to the reader: “My other caveat about this time of abundance is that while it’s great for a foreign-news junkie, I’m not sure how well it serves the passive reader. The profusion of unfiltered information can overwhelm without informing.”
But when Keller talks of a profusion of “unfiltered information” in news, he is only partly right. One of the dangers of our current news era lies in its plethora of filters. Sites like Google filter their search engines to spit out the results they think you want, according to author Eli Pariser. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have changed our ideas of “relevance” and “connection,” by letting us define those terms according to our preference. If “relevant,” in your mind, means exclusive entertainment news and no foreign policy articles, your social media sites can construct themselves in your image. It will be difficult to break through your bubble.
This is not the fault of journalists, per se, but rather the fault of those organizations that propagate news and information. If readers still pick up a print newspaper, they cannot filter out pertinent front-page headlines without concentrated effort. However, newspapers and news magazines have also increasingly supported the idea of partisan reporting: one should know that The Washington Post and The Washington Times present two different versions of our national and international landscape. Such news coverage propagates the news “bubble.”
It seems a confusing and deluding news world: the amalgamation of information renders some readers overwhelmed and others apathetic, while many retreat into their ideological news bubbles. It’s a world of endless information, but also one of endless blinders. Can we really call this a golden age of news?
Yesterday the Committee to Protect Journalism released a report on the Obama administration and the press. Much coverage of this report has rightly focused in on the clandestine nature of the White House about its activities, its employment of the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute leakers, and its attempts to control leaks through peer monitoring under the Insider Press Program. One of the more disturbing points this report raises is that while the name of the game might be “free and open,” there is nevertheless a large quantity of officially sanctioned communication only. The report cites Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen’s characterization of the administration’s message machine that they originally posted on Politico:
One authentically new technique pioneered by the Obama White House is government creation of content—photos of the president, videos of White House officials, blog posts written by Obama aides—which can then be instantly released to the masses through social media. And they are obsessed with taking advantage of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and every other social media forum, not just for campaigning, but governing. They are more disciplined about cracking down on staff that leak, or reporters who write things they don’t like.
The report continues on discuss the White House’s preference for its own newscast West Wing Week to reporting by the fourth estate, and how it often redirects reporters to generated content rather than answering questions in person. While it serves the intentions of our elected officials to present content and spin stories in such a way that they remain elected, it is extremely worrisome to think that such user-generated content is not content merely to compete with external journalism, but is demonstrating a desire to supplant it.
Propaganda and spin are always a part of politics: one merely need to look to Thucydides’ account of of the Peloponnesian War to be assured of that. However, when the game of self-promotion begins to displace an open and effective dialogue with the public about the political reality, that harms our ability to interact in a dynamically democratic manner.
What the CPJ’s report highlights, more than anything, is that Obama’s strength as a campaigner has undermined his ability to enter into the complexities of political dialogue. Politics is a give and take, yet in this increasingly polarized political environment, which has come to a head in the shutdown, this give and take has devolved into a zero-sum game of partisan ideological push. The report employs the words of Eric Schmitt, national security correspondent of The New York Times, to describe this reality:
There’s almost an obligation to control the message the way they did during the campaign. More insidious than the chilling effect of the leaks investigations is the slow roll or stall. People say, ‘I have to get back to you. I have to clear it with public affairs.’
The particular mark of American democracy is authentic treatment of the issues. The less freedom the press has to present the facts to the public for an open discussion, the greater the blow is to the American experiment. When the fear of scrutiny, critique, and opposition become so strong as to stymie the conversation that America has engaged in since her inception, the liberty invested in the American people suffers the blow. Journalists must be free to report, and the public free to respond to those reports, to engage in political conversation. President Obama, and all those involved in politics, would do well to take this report seriously and remember that freedom of information does not just apply to forced disclosures.
How much does “big data” know about you? Thanks to commercial data aggregator Acxiom, you can find out: the “data giant” has decided to make a large portion of its information public via a new website, Aboutthedata.com. The New Republic contributor Paul Rosenzweig explained the significance of the company’s revelations in a Monday post:
Acxiom is one of the largest commercial, private sector data aggregators around. It collects and sells large data sets about consumers (sometimes even to the government). And for years it did so quietly, behind the scene—as one writer put it ‘mapping the consumer genome.’ Some saw this as rather ominous; others as just curious. But it was, for all of us, mysterious. Until now.
Rosenzweig created a profile on the site, and was able to see Acxiom profile of his tastes and life. While he found the purchase and household interests rather boring and “un-illuminating,” the personal history “insights were at least moderately invasive of my privacy, and highly accurate.” All the same, Rosenzweig was not perturbed by his data profile. “…When I dove into one big data set (albeit only partially), held by one of the largest data aggregators in the world, all I really was, was a bit bored.”
Curious, I also created a profile. Unlike Rosenzweig, the company was more correct on my purchasing preferences than my personal history. (They thought I had a child and a truck. I have neither.) I didn’t feel that they knew me considerably well at all—and was quite pleased by that fact. But the website triggered a different question in my mind, separate from (legitimate) privacy concerns. On the Aboutthedata.com’s home page, they posit this claim: “We [consumers] no longer want to receive mass marketing – getting bombarded with ads that have no relevancy to our lives – because it’s intrusive and wastes our time. That’s why companies want to use data about you to personalize and shape your experiences with them.”
Companies are increasingly “personalizing” their advertising in an effort to buy our attention. Online advertisers increasingly shape consumer profiles to garner users’ time and money. But what are the detriments and dangers of such attention economics? Tom Chatfield elaborated on in an Aeon Magazine piece entitled “The Attention Economy.” He includes an interesting quote from David Auerbach of N+1 Magazine:
In a Friday interview at Patrick Henry College, a Christian conservative institution, Mark Leibovich offered a rather bleak view of D.C. politics and journalism. But this is no surprise, considering the frank and disenchanting language of his book This Town: Two Parties and A Funeral. Leibovich spoke of a city wallowing in “egregious” and “unsustainable” corruption, fixated on money and power.
However, the New York Times Magazine reporter did offer some hope for the young journalism and government majors gathered: he encouraged them to embrace “rootedness” and community, rather than seeking the popularity and charisma of Washington. “Being immersed in small communities gives one an exposure to how people interact, a more hands-on approach to things,” Leibovich said in response to an email on the subject. “Plus, I think it’s more interesting.”
While these statements may not be a full endorsement of localism per se, Leibovich offered important supports for the movement. First, he noted the importance of community-centric service. D.C. media and political leaders often become fixated on their own sphere of political bias, to the detriment of objectivity and even courtesy. Leibovich believes Washington’s reporters are often disdainful of their customers (Leibovich referenced a Politico story entitled “Are Voters Dumb?” that appeared on their front page in 2012).
Journalists writing and living in community recognize their customers. They develop relationships with them, and learn to seek the good of those communities. Leibovich said that any reporter or politician who wants to come to D.C. should first develop this rich background—and added that they (politicians especially) should return to their homeland, and not remain in the noxious D.C. atmosphere.
My personal experience aligns with Leibovich’s statements. While writing for a local Idaho paper, I grew close to my readers and community. The work transcended mere reporting and writing: every article was intimately tied to the daily lives of my neighbors. Obituaries and high school senior profiles, while not glamorous, were incredibly important. Stories on a hot local topic meant hours on the phone with concerned or interested readers the next day. Though I did not fully realize it at the time, it was deeply meaningful work.
Unfortunately, these small bastions of journalism are suffering most in the current media climate. They haven’t the funds available to larger companies like the New York Times. Oftentimes, they lose young journalists to the glamor of big-city newspapers. Young writers eager for a future Pulitzer or book deal see little promise in writing for the local county.
It may seem disingenuous for Leibovich and myself to advocate for small-town journalism while writing in “This Town.” I cannot speak for Leibovich, but perhaps there will come a day when I return to that small-town Idaho community. It was a blessing to write for them. But writing for The American Conservative does feel much like writing for my small-town paper did: we have a very involved readership community, even if it is online. Our active and thoughtful commenters always offer interesting feedback. We do offer a service to an important ideological community, and many of our writers, including Rod Dreher, have combined their work here with a strong sense of place. The two work hand in hand.
Hopefully Leibovich’s comments will encourage other young writers to strongly examine their journalistic motives: are they seeking fame and fortune, or are they seeking to serve? Washington’s corruption, power-lust, and nearly inescapable partisanship are very real temptations. But those who remain rooted to their place and beliefs can offer hope—even in “This Town.”
George Will left ABC’s Sunday show “This Week,” after it left Washington to accommodate George Stephanopoulos’s schedule. ABC says it will not be hiring any replacement, but that hasn’t stopped some from measuring the drapes for the next Will-ian figure to anchor the conservative chair.
Ross Douthat would be a strong choice, already well-trained in engaging liberal audiences in good faith thanks to his post at the New York Times. Jamie Weinstein over at the Daily Caller notes that “the young New York Times columnist is like Will in some ways: Unemotional and erudite. You won’t get a lot of flash with Douthat, but you would get a lot of smart analysis.” Peter Lawler picks up the conversation over at “Postmodern Conservative” and continues that “it goes without saying that if you want a multifaceted and somewhat unpredictable young guy on the rise, you’d go with Ross Douthat over the other folks on the list.
Pete Spiliakos sets the credentials for a successor thusly:
I think that whoever ABC picks should be a journalist or wonk who is a policy generalist that takes policy seriously. That means someone who can talk monetary policy, tax policy, health care policy, etc. and has been doing their homework for a while. It should be a conservative who pitches their arguments to the persuadables in ABC’s audience, but is willing to throw some sharp elbows at the liberal panelists (both their presumptions and – if they deserve it – their persons). The Will replacement should be someone who is willing to constructively criticize the conservative side, but who has the sense to not let that criticism of fellow conservatives get in the way of presenting a conservative worldview.
Lawler ponders that “the argument for Ross and Yuval is, of course, they have the mixture of “public philosophy,” laidback but serious theology, instinctive and calculated prudence, and expertise in public policy that our side needs to look smarter than it often does and be smarter than it often is. Plus they both have that kind of nerdy charisma that might grow on America.”
To fill Professor Will’s scholarly shoes, however, takes more than just policy familiarity and a thoughtful disposition, though both are important. No, at the risk of rampant credentialism, his successor should pair a Ph.D. with his conservative bona fides and deep wells of insight, so that regrettably knocks Ross and Ramesh out of the running, though their families may appreciate having them home on Sundays without the makeup.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof compared Senator Ted Cruz to Don Quixote in a Thursday column, describing the senator as an impassioned but delusional knight-errant charging windmills of Obamacare terror. “Cruz is a smart man, and maybe this is just disingenuous demagoguery,” he said. “But there’s a scarier possibility: After spending too much time in the Republican echo chamber, he may believe what he says.”
Kristof invokes a right-wing media bubble so potent it “tugs the entire Republican Party to the right and that transforms people like Cruz into crusading Don Quixotes.” He has a point—it’s easy to uncover murmurs of conspiracy and fear in the Republican Party, and it’s embarrassing at times to see the naiveté fostered in our discourse by a lack of openness, refusal to appreciate alternate points of view, and disdain for the beliefs of others.
But Kristof is wrong to level this charge only at the right; the left shares its own collection of giants-actually-windmills. Salon’s front page Thursday included a film review of a horror flick about a fictional cannibal Christian family. This was their deck: “a gruesome horror film becomes an indie mood piece on the dangers of religion.”
Media bubbles do indeed produce an echo-chamber effect, but that would do little if they were not echoing the rhetoric of a crusader. Don Quixote’s power lies in his make-believe nobility. Today’s parties—left and right—are similarly entranced by their own grandiose myths. The sound of crusading greatness, of superior dogma, sings sweetly in our ears. Yet so much of politics is commonplace, stale, and frustrating. We gild our windmills and mount our invisible steeds in an attempt to embellish it all. But how much of politics is really so grand or straightforward?
Don Quixote wanted to seek the true, good, and beautiful. But his desire for greatness prevented him from confronting the real world. Leon Hadar described a similar sentiment in “Why ‘This Town’ Loves Going to War”:
Ask yourself why there is this continual effort by the Beltway insiders and journalists to elevate foreign policy and national security to the top of the agenda. Could it be because they believe a “player” in Washington has a better chance of drawing public and media attention, of gaining recognition, and of accumulating power when he or she is dealing with matters of war and peace as opposed to, say, the makeup of the next budget?
Hadar is right: politicians prefer the language of war and peace to boring policy postulations. So don’t be surprised if they begin speaking of budgetary issues in warlike terms—politics become more palatable with a little ideological sugarcoating. Perhaps this explains Cruz’s statement, “Everyone in America knows Obamacare is destroying the economy.” Or when he compared acceptance of the Affordable Care Act to Chamberlain’s appeasement of Nazis. Turning politics and policy into black-and-white battles is easy. It makes everything simple. As simple as charging at imaginary giants.
In the midst of heated debates on education reform, Common Core, and school policy, it’s good to remember the importance of learning outside the classroom. A British Cohort Study, conducted with 17,000 people throughout the United Kingdom, demonstrated how much pleasure reading improves children’s brains. Study author Alice Sullivan reported her findings in the Guardian Monday:
Of the 17,000 members, 6,000 took a range of cognitive tests at age 16. We compared children from the same social backgrounds who achieved similar tested abilities at ages five and 10, and discovered that those who frequently read books at age 10 and more than once a week when they were 16 had higher test results than those who read less. In other words, reading for pleasure was linked to greater intellectual progress, both in vocabulary, spelling and mathematics. In fact, the impact was around four times greater than that of having a parent with a post-secondary degree.
Charles Murray’s recent book Coming Apart warned of an almost impenetrable learning barrier between America’s upper and lower classes, reinforced by parents with the aforementioned post-secondary degrees. Privileged academic elite, according to his studies, foster the greatest guarantee of student success. But what if there was a loophole in this exclusive cycle? If true, this study’s findings could help lessen the “education gap.” Students could transcend their expected learning ability simply by reading for fun.
This emphasizes the importance of introducing children to books at a young age. But what of the child who clearly dislikes reading? Here are some ideas for softening children’s distaste for the subject:
Reading aloud is especially beneficial to children who struggle with the written word, and may be helpful when transitioning from picture books to more complex chapter books. Reading aloud dramatizes the experience, and also helps foster auditory learning.
Go to the Library
At a local library, children can peruse and pick out books at their leisure. It makes reading an exciting discovery experience. Help children look for books that may relate to movies they’ve seen, like A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Enter Summer Reading Programs
For the competitive child, a summer reading program may increase book interest. These programs and competitions turn reading into more of a sport. Students cultivate a feeling of success by tracking their progress. And it always helps when there’s a prize involved.
Start With Comics
For other children, comic books (perhaps Calvin and Hobbes?) may help awaken a love of reading. Good storytelling can happen on the funny pages as well as within the novel.
Some children may find it difficult to step away from the computer or TV to read. But parents have found inventive ways to transcend this barrier: I’ve met some who trade reading time for computer or TV time. The amount of technology time they’re allowed directly correlates to the amount of time they’ve read that day. While some children may just continue to view this as drudgery, others may come to love reading for its own sake.
Reading cultivates mental sharpness in a variety of academic areas, as the British Cohort Study demonstrates. But reading also enhances a child’s creativity and awareness of the world. To transcend boxes of virtual and personal experience, to encounter another mind and another world, is an experience worth the effort – regardless of math and literacy scores.
Wednesday, much of Washington, D.C. was shocked by the news of a shooting at Navy Yard. Some buildings went into lockdown. At least one intern got a frightened call from her father. A fellow employee asked me if my husband was safe. But 12 people are dead, and their loved ones now mourn. It was shocking and tragic.
But from media, we hear a familiar regurgitation of anger and disdain. Every time there’s a tragic shooting, the pro-gun and anti-gun commentators raise their voices. The “I told you so!” messages ricochet off each other, with finger pointing and lambasting on both sides. Commentators respond to these deaths as they have to so many—at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and others—with an upsurge of political debate on gun control. In addition, there always seems to be an in-depth psychoanalysis— sometimes akin to morbid fascination—of the killer.
It is true that, in light of the tragedy, some consideration of gun policy is probably a matter-of-course. But to launch into this debate within hours of the shootings seems insensitive and careless. We forget that killing is messy and erratic, and killers even more frighteningly unpredictable. We forget that there is no way to stop all evil people from ever doing evil things, as long as the human mind is possessed with creativity and cleverness. We forget that guns can be dangerous in the wrong hands, and that something must be done to protect the vulnerable.
But most of all, we forget the killed: the people with mourning loved ones, lives cut short. There were 12 of them Monday—NBC News shared their names and stories:
Michael Arnold, 59
Sylvia Frasier, 53
Kathy Gaarde, 62
John Roger Johnson, 73
Frank Kohler, 50
Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46
Vishnu Pandit, 61
Arthur Daniels, 51
Mary Francis Knight, 51
Gerald L. Read, 58
Martin Bodrog, 54
Michael Ridgell, 52
Kenneth Proctor loved the Redskins. Vishnu Pandit was a native of Bombay, India, who “took great pride in being employed by the United States Navy.” Martin Bodrog had three daughters and taught Sunday School at church. Arthur Daniels’ wife and family shared their story on a local TV channel last night: “Priscilla says her husband Arthur had worked at the Navy Yard off and on as a handyman for 17 years. She says he left for work on Monday at 6:45 a.m. and wasn’t heard from again.” The couple had been married for 30 years, with five children and nine grandchildren.
There are responses to the shootings worth praising for their genuine concern. Rev. Andrew Royals at St. Vincent de Paul, blocks away from the Navy Yard, opened the church doors for mass. Attendees prayed for the victims.
In our democracy, we can be happy that public discourse and media give us the right to comment on important policy issues. But perhaps we need reminding that such a right comes with the responsibility to use it well, for the sake of all those who grieve today.
A plethora of recent studies have delved into the effect social media has on our brains. As part of a widespread neurological fascination in social science, these reports offer various concerns on the effect new technological platforms have on our social consciousness.
The University of Michigan reported last month that Facebook, while cultivating an addictive fixation in its users, also fosters depression. Why? “Based on the responses from the participants,” TIME reports, “the scientists speculated that the Facebook users were comparing themselves with their peers, and many were feeling inferior as a result. Users also reported frustration and a “lack of attention” from having fewer comments, likes and feedback compared with their Facebook friends.”
Social scientists are also musing over the growing “selfie” trend – and trying to determine its ethical implications. Is our pouty-picture-taking symptomatic of typical youthful immaturity, or is it indicative of some deeper cultural phenomenon?
These are just a few minor grace notes in a growing public dialogue on “narcissism”: whether we are more narcissistic than in ages past, how social media affects our self-absorption, and whether we need to change. Dr. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, believes that younger generations are “increasingly entitled, self-obsessed, and unprepared for the realities of adult life,” according to a recent New York Times article. Slate author Katy Waldman felt inclined to agree with her:
Look at the rise of plastic surgery, our painstaking attention to Facebook and Twitter profiles, our selfies, our relentless focus on self-improvement, and “soccer teams that give every kid a trophy … Could it be that she is onto something? How else to explain that Twenge’s thesis just feels right?
Some believe this “epidemic” of narcissism is a product of our digital era. According to another study, this one conducted by the University of California Los Angeles, language in books have shown the trend develop over the past 200 years. “The currently discussed rise in individualism is not something recent but has been going on for centuries as we moved from a predominantly rural, low-tech society to a predominantly urban, high-tech society,” said psychology professor Patricia Greenfield, who conducted the study. Words like “unique,” “individual,” “self,” “feel,” “choose,” and “get” increased significantly over time. Words like “authority,” “belong,” and “pray” are more rare than before.
The “selfie” is a commonly quoted example of the narcissistic tendency in social media. One psychologist told TIME that the self-captured image could be beneficial, since it allows “young adults and teens to express their mood states and share important experiences.” But not everyone sees the “selfie” as a correct depiction of the self. Brett McCracken, in a Mere Orthodoxy blog post, argued the self-projections we present on social media are both deceptive to others and to ourselves:
Social media’s “what are you doing now?” invitation to pose, pontificate and consume conspicuously only amplifies the narcissistic presentism of the generation depicted in The Bling Ring. It makes it easier than ever to tell the world exactly what you want them to know about you. Through a carefully cropped and color-corrected selfie, depicting whatever glamorized “now” we think paints us in the best light, we can construct a public persona as we see fit.
Are Instagram selfies and Twitter posts truly making us more narcissistic? Or are we merely viewing a greater publication of old human tendencies?
I would argue the latter. While the digital era could be making us more narcissistic, it seems more likely that it is doing exactly what it was created to do: showcasing the self in all its glory. As long as humans have roamed the planet, they have had selfish tendencies. But prior to the rise of social media, they did not have a global platform for this grandstanding. High school, with all its intense and sticky drama, was documented profusely in letters and diaries, but it rarely appeared in public discourse. Now, via Facebook, young adults have a communal outlet for their emotionally turbulent lives. Facebook is, in many ways, the new diary.
In addition, arguing that young adults are more narcissistic than ever seems too simplistic. Many young people are immature and tend to be self-interested. It is only with experience and age that we learn the planet does not revolve around us. Once again, this generation has a wider global platform for self-pontification than ever before. This may skew the narcissism balance in their favor. Not to mention that the young are less adept at disguising their selfishness. With age, we learn how to hide our self-absorption behind facades of one sort or another. Time makes some humble; it makes others clever.
It is true that individualism and life disassociated from family and community is more widespread today than in past civilizations. It could be that this individualism has fostered our egotism. The person who lives with family or roommates must learn patience, self-control, and sacrifice. The individual, however, need not reconcile with other people’s wants and desires. Personal wants reign supreme. This obviously cultivates a different set of values and perceptions in the individual. But one must caution against the tendency to stereotype and predict behavior based on such perceived “trends.”
The human mind is not one massive mound of ever-growing egotism. It is a complex, varied, wondrous thing — scarred with the pains of human experience, spotted with sin and excess, ever shifting with the cadence of human experience. While we should be wary of social media’s influence on our mental and spiritual growth, we needn’t discount the online experience because of a few paltry “selfies.” One of the beauties of social media is its ability to connect and share – to teach us more about each other.