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A Narcissistic Epidemic

Somebody described an egotist as an "I" specialist. Our current age is overfilled with "I" specialists, Two thousand years ago the apostle Paul wrote that 'in the last days perilous times will come" when "men will be lovers of themselves" (2 Timothy 3:1-2). A statement about Teddy Roosevelt by Edmund Morris in his presidential biography Theodore Rex describes many in our own self-centered age. Morris noted that Teddy loved to talk with guests he entertained at the White House and that Roosevelt's monologues proved so uninhibited some guests wondered what the stewards were serving him. Morris then quotes Roosevelt's close friend Henry Adams who observed, "Teddy is never sober, only he is drunk with himself and not with rum." Bill Davidow published an article entitled "The Internet 'Narcissism Epidemic' " (The Atlantic, 3/13) which reported on evidence of an increase in narcissism in our culture. The article began with blunt words: " 'We are in the midst of a 'narcissism epidemic,' concluded psychologists Jean M. Twnege and W. Keith Campbell in their 2009 book." Davidow reports fmdings from researchers who have discovered a high correlation between narcissistic personality disorders and Facebook activity. Narcissism is defined by Webster's as "an excessive interest in one's own body or self" More commonly, we describe a narcissist when we say he (or she) is "full of himself." Now before all you Facebookers get ready to rip my face off, let me assure you neither Davidow's article nor this one means to indict everyone who Facebooks of being a narcissist! Social media, like TV and other forms of electronic communication, benefits and is used responsibly and positively by millions of people. But the article does report on studies that measured two disruptive aspects of narcissistic personalities — grandiose exhibitionism and entitlement/exploitativeness — and reports that those who had high scores on grandiose exhibitionism tended to amass more friends on Facebook. Davidow writes, "What is clear is that social media platforms are frequently used by those with narcissistic tendencies to feed their egos." Davidow quotes Elias Aboujaoude, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford, who noted that our ability to tailor the internet experience to our every need is making us more narcissistic. Why? "As we get accustomed to having even our most minor needs....accommodated to this degree, we are growing more needy and more entitled. In other words, more narcissistic." The real problem, Aboujaoude writes, is that "the traits we take on online can become incorporated in our offline personalities." Simply put, millions of Americans, online and in everyday life, are "drunk with themselves," gripped with an excessive concern for self.

Heads up — Christians must not be narcissistic, online or anywhere else. Ever. Authentic followers of Jesus are called to *esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:3-5). Christ did not go to a cross because He was looking out for His own interests. Our culture is badly infected with the spiritual virus of self-centeredness. As God's people, let us deny ourselves and take up the cross daily lest we, too, become victims of the narcissistic epidemic (Luke 923).

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ