Have Media Created a Generation of Narcissists?

Reality television depicts average people rising rapidly to instant fame. Other media outlets, including YouTube and Facebook, provide people with the opportunity to gain the attention of a virtual audience with the push of a button. Young people today are bombarded with images of fictional fame, as in the case of Hannah Montana and other television characters, and real fame, through reality programming and media coverage of athletes, musicians and actors. But how has this phenomenon affected the aspirations of our youth? Yalda T. Uhls, of the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, wanted to find an answer to this question.  Culturally, there are different views of fame. For instance, Uhls noted that boys from wealthier countries envision a successful man as one who is relaxing or engaged in sports. In contrast, boys from economically disadvantaged countries see an ideal adult man as one with a career and responsibilities.

In order to gauge the pulse of American adolescents, Uhls conducted five focus groups on 20 adolescents between the ages of 10 and 12. The results revealed that 40% of the participants stated that they aspired to be famous more than anything else. “In addition, many of the children believed that fame would mean that people liked them and knew who they were,” said Uhls. “When youth see messages about fame in nearly every aspect of their pervasive media environment—fictional TV programs, reality TV shows, sports programs, and online—coupled with same-age models who achieve fame, these aspirations could remain central.” Additionally, children believe they can achieve that fame through the media outlets that are available to them. Of primary concern to Uhls was the fact that the children who listed fame as their top aspiration did not list a skill that would allow them to achieve that fame, such as singing. “Fame is an aspiration that narcissists fantasize about achieving,” said Uhls. “Our findings suggest that the documented historical increase in narcissistic personality in emerging adults begins in the preadolescent years with a desire for fame.”

Uhls, Y. T., & Greenfield, P. M. (2011, December 19). The Value of Fame: Preadolescent Perceptions of Popular Media and Their Relationship to Future Aspirations. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026369

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  • Snoop

    January 13th, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    There are a lot of things in society that have contributed to this generation of apathetic and disloyal kids who are only looking out for number one, and that includes the media and parents who are indulgent to the extreme. They are only looking out for their own best interests and rarely do they take a little time out to think of the ways that the selfish things that they choose to do can affect others adversely. I hate to be around them, and call me scrooge all you want, but this is a generation of young kids that I think most of us can do without.

  • Barry

    January 14th, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    I try not to be a cynic but things are going pretty downhill.
    Society as a whole has gotten to where we don;t universally care about anything but what is going on in our little part of the world.
    How did we get there?

  • oliver

    January 14th, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    we have no one to blame but ourselves, media may have put it out there but we all bought into it

  • channing

    January 16th, 2012 at 5:46 AM

    So I am a part of this generation that everyone is griping about being so narcissistic. So what? maybe this is not a bad thing to care about how we look and how we present to other people. Isn’t this a good thing to care about what kind of impression we make on other people? I mean, I know there are some guys who get pretty shallow about the whole deal but I look at it as I am bettering myself and doing it to move forward, nothing more, nothing less. What in essence is wrong with just wanting to be the best that you can possibly be, inside and out?

  • Daniel EB

    January 16th, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    Vanity is something that is highly desired an youngsters are now gravitating more towards it than ever before. With the introduction of social media this phenomenon has only grown. Nobody aspires to be a model person but ask if they want to be a movie star and they will scream out a YES!

  • Sebastian.K

    January 17th, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    Have Media Created a Generation of Narcissists?

    I don’t think so. Now I know I’m probably going to be opposed by others but I will try and explain:

    Everybody has this desire of being know by others. Why even in the pre-historic ages, I’m sure the caveman who discovered fire ran around showing his discovery to others around him.Its just human nature.And knowing young people as they are, added with the ease that the internet provides,and the end result is there for everybody to see. its nothing unnatural or anything new, its just arrived in a modern form, especially with the advent of social media.

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