THE AGE OF NARCISSISM; Once, We British Took Pride in Our Reticence. Now Millions Delight in Revealing Every Detail of Their Lives, No Matter How Embarrassing or Mundane. What Bores They Are, Says COSMO LANDESMAN

Daily Mail (London), May 17, 2010 | Go to article overview

THE AGE OF NARCISSISM; Once, We British Took Pride in Our Reticence. Now Millions Delight in Revealing Every Detail of Their Lives, No Matter How Embarrassing or Mundane. What Bores They Are, Says COSMO LANDESMAN


Byline: by Cosmo Landesman

WOULD you like to know what I had for breakfast, or how I slept last night? Never mind the future of our new coalition government or the fate of the planet; let's talk about something important -- like me.

Me and my sock crisis -- I can't find two that match! Help! Would you like to see a video of me on YouTube sneezing, or would you prefer one of me sleeping? Should I tweet some sweet nothings to you? Am I mad, you ask? No. I'm a modern Me-Man. Or, at least, I'm thinking of becoming one.

The Me-Man is everywhere. And so is the Me-Woman. They are the millions of men and women across Britain, from every class, age and profession who want to talk about themselves, expose themselves and promote themselves in glorious and often gory detail.

They do it at dinner parties, they do it online. They blog and bleat and tweet and text you all the time. The medium may vary, but the message is always the same: Me. 'Me, Me, Me!' has become the mantra of our Brave, New, Narcissistic Britain.

This Britain is founded upon the fallacy that all men and women are equally fascinating and that there is no facet of our lives -- be it shopping lists or love affairs -- that we shouldn't share with complete strangers.

Once, we opened up our hearts and souls to a select few -- but now, in the age of the internet, we can reach into the dustbins of our lives and share any old rubbish with the whole world.

This weekend, the social network site Facebook was criticised by security experts for making it more difficult for users to keep personal details private. It seems that once you join Facebook and reveal such information as photographs, your likes and passions, you can no longer change your mind and delete it.

Everyone from potential bosses to internet voyeurs can have access to your private life. But to me this simply begs the question: why go on Facebook in the first place if you care so much about your privacy? And, really, perhaps those security experts shouldn't worry too much anyway, because in the Age of Narcissism most people are just desperate to plaster their private lives all over the internet -- or share it with you during phone conversations on buses and trains.

The private me is dead, long live the public me! It would be a mistake to think this is just an online phenomenon.

I'm always meeting people at social gatherings who will talk about themselves for hours -- their job, their house, and their holiday.

I listen patiently and wait for the moment when good manners demand that they turn to me and say, 'and what about you?' And yes it happens -- once every few years. People these days don't even pretend they're interested in you any more.

Of course, the Americans developed this kind of narcissism way before us. According to Sandy Hotchkiss, the author of Why Is It Always About You?: The Seven Deadly Sins Of Narcissism, it has become 'one of the most prevalent personality disorders of our time'.

It's said that more than ten million Americans suffer from a lesser form of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In America, there are books that offer a guide to Loving The Self-Absorbed and self-help books called Children Of The Self-Absorbed'.

I'm sorry to say that the days when we could dismiss such a thing as a silly American fad are long gone.

The British once prided themselves on being too sensible, too selfdeprecating and ironic for that sort of self-involved nonsense.

It's hard to believe there was once a Britain where you didn't make an exhibition of yourself, where spending too much time talking about yourself would have got you labelled a bore.

Remember the Great British Bore? He was a figure once satirised in the pages of Punch and Private Eye. The Great British Bore would hold court in his local pub and bang on and on about himself.

But in Narcissistic Britain we're all bores now -- eager to tell anyone who will watch us on YouTube or follow us on Twitter the most trivial facts of our lives. …

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