Media and Narcissism

Dave Carr wrote an interesting article for NYT profiling a conflict between media (which is inherently a one to many approach to messaging) to “selfie sharing” (which is one to a few) and transient. Dave’s main observation is that narcissism is on the rise, and indeed, was on full display in Times Square New York on new year’s eve with thousands of folks making selfies on sticks. He writes

I’d seen the same phenomenon when I was touring the Colosseum in Rome last month. So many people were fighting for space to take selfies with their long sticks — what some have called the “Narcissistick” — that it looked like a reprise of the gladiatorial battles the place once hosted.

Is this a problem for media companies? At first blush it seems so. They are in the business of moving attention away from the self to something else, like a movie or TV show or a magazine article or a celebrity, whatever. And Dave is right that media must find a way into the narcissistic mindset of the public in order to get attention.

But, this, of course, is what they have been doing all along. The consumer society of the 20th century was also intensely narcissistic. Advertising geniuses of the 1950’s realized that they were not selling products but lifestyles that folks could see via the preferred media of the day, radio and then TV.

But the selfie sharing movement shows more clearly that feeding the ego trumps celebrity, brand worship and just about everything else. In other words, selling starts with glorifying the self as hero of own life story. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. To the contrary, it is what democratic culture looks like. It is just fun.


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