THE AGE OF NARCISSISM; Once, We Irish Took Pride in Our Gift of the Gab. and Boy Have We Taken That Skill On-Line. Millions Now Delight in Revealing Every Detail of Their Lives. How Boring, Says COSMO LANDESMAN

Daily Mail (London), May 18, 2010 | Go to article overview

THE AGE OF NARCISSISM; Once, We Irish Took Pride in Our Gift of the Gab. and Boy Have We Taken That Skill On-Line. Millions Now Delight in Revealing Every Detail of Their Lives. How Boring, Says COSMO LANDESMAN


Byline: Cosmo Landesman

WOULD you like to know what I had for breakfast, or how I slept last night? Never mind the future of the economy, volcanic ash, 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 hundreds of thousands of men and women across Ireland, 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 Ireland.

This nation 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'.

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

Yes, we as a nation may have been famed for dancing on pub-table tops and generally getting 'rowdy', but traditionally we're also the folk that are stubbornly polite, that don't really say what we really mean - 'no, I'm grand' - and the people that won't speak ill of the dead.

Much as we 21st-century citizens of Ireland may like to deny it, we still very much care what Mary from down the road in number 43 thinks. But as soon as we log-on, those oh-so-Irish stereotypes go fleeing out the window at an alarming pace.

Go on-line, and it's hard to believe there was once a Ireland where you didn't make an exhibition of yourself; where you didn't care what Mary from down the road in number 43 thinks; where spending too much time talking about yourself would have got you labelled a bore. …

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