College students narcissists? No way…

27 02 2007

A researcher at San Diego State recently released a study on the self-centered attitudes of college students. Some interesting excerpts from the CNN.com story:

“As an example, Twenge cited a song commonly sung to the tune of ‘Frere Jacques’ in preschool: ‘I am special, I am special. Look at me.'”

Who knew?

“‘Current technology fuels the increase in narcissism,’ Twenge said. ‘By its very name, MySpace encourages attention-seeking, as does YouTube.'”

Agreed! Consider Facebook, the second most popular social networking site behind MySpace. People get truly competetive about how many friends they have and what their pictures say about themselves.

“Kari Dalane, a University of Vermont sophomore, says most of her contemporaries are politically active and not overly self-centered.
‘People are worried about themselves — but in the sense of where are they’re going to find a place in the world,’ she said. ‘People want to look their best, have a good time, but it doesn’t mean they’re not concerned about the rest of the world.'”

I both agree and disagree with this statement. People do care about their place in the world and how they can help the world, yet there are outstanding deficits in political activism and social responsibility among college students. As an example, my fraternity, of which I am now an alumnus, constantly talks about volunteerism and community service as an important aspect of what they do, yet they’re becoming increasingly focused on character and resume building for their future careers instead of on the problems that plague society or on political awareness. The one great exception that I see is Humorology which, though it has an intensely competitive face, really raises a lot of money for Camp Heartland and the Chris Farley Foundation.

As an aside to this whole deal, Todd Gitlin writes often about how our generation (am I Gen Y?) is not activist in the manner that the Vietnam protesters were activists. (In my mind, I imagine all of the University of Wisconsin’s relics of a protest era: 60’s-designed building made like fortresses, the Mifflin Street Block party and fences over some campus windows. But I digress.) Instead, we are affecting the world through our purchasing power. We buy fair trade coffee when it’s offered alongside free trade coffee, we choose to buy the red “AIDS relief” ipod instead of the others or we click a button to donate money during the holiday season while making our Amazon purchases. Some may pish-posh the idea of making a difference a few dollars at a time. I did at first, but yesterday, I saw a sign on the wall of the Espresso Royale Cafe on State Street showing pictures of all the children who have been helped directly by money from consumers. That really stuck me. If I ever find the specific article by Gitlin, I’ll put it up!

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