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Psychiatrist Keith Ablow joins the chorus of colleagues, as well as sociologists and historians, in a recent online article. The gist: "We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists." He refers to new surveys collected by Dr. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor. Today's college students "are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying are decreasing." In short, she calls it "a narcissism epidemic" and many of her colleagues, like Ablow, agree.

These data are not unexpected. I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.

On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of "friends." They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way), "speak" in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they "like."...These are the psychological drugs of the 21st century and they are getting our sons and daughters very sick, indeed. (1)
Tragically, narcissism typically turns to self-loathing. "False pride can never be sustained." Young people are looking for more highs to define and distinguish themselves. "They're doing anything to distract themselves from the fact that they feel empty inside and unworthy." However, the bubble will burst. Ablow says, "Watch for an epidemic of depression and suicidality, not to mention homicidality, as the real self-loathing and hatred of others that lies beneath all this narcissism rises to the surface."

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1 [ Back ] Keith Ablow, "We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists,", January 8, 2013.
2 [ Back ] John Culkin, "A Schoolman's Guide to Marshal McLuhan," Saturday Review, March 18, 1967.
3 [ Back ] Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010).

Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), host of the White Horse Inn, national radio broadcast, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is author of many books, including The Gospel-Driven Life, Christless Christianity, People and Place, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, The Christian Faith, and For Calvinism.

Issue: "Wired & Tired" May/June 2013 Vol. 22 No. 3 Page number(s): 36-43

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