Editor’s Column: What Matters

We started with “Life” magazine (first edition published 1936). Then came “People” in 1974, followed by “Us” in 1977, and “Self” in 1979. Those are the titles of national magazines and their first edition publication dates. Do you see a pattern forming? My dad used to joke that the next new magazine would just have mirrored pages, so when you opened it up, you just saw your own reflection. I don’t think any of us could have foreseen what was coming down the pike in the form of social media, smartphones and the ubiquitous “selfie.”

A 1979 book by historian Christopher Lasch labeled baby boomers as the new “Me Generation,” so we can’t blame the millennials. The trend was already well underway, possibly emerging from  the post-WWII era and the advent of modern advertising that sold the American public the image of the ideal family. Throw in Ken and Barbie and the “Stepford Wives” and you can see the writing on the wall. Modern technology has just made it much more obvious.

Having a healthy self-concept is a good thing, ask any therapist. But there’s a flip side: an epidemic of narcissism, and we seem to be racing headlong into it, even embracing it.

The Greek myth of Narcissus is a cautionary tale in which a beautiful young man becomes so enamored with his own reflection he stares at himself until he dies. The myth is the origin of the term “narcissism” – a fixation with oneself. At an extreme, narcissistic tendencies (which all humans have to some degree) can evolve into narcissistic personality disorder, a diagnosable — though not easily treated — mental condition. 

We’ve already witnessed the devastating impact of people becoming so fixated on comparing their reality to the filtered, edited, and digitized lives of others they become depressed, even suicidal. But what about the people who go the other direction? 

It’s going to be an interesting ride to see what comes of a society that is more focused on charisma and presentation than character and context; when poll numbers and optics are of greater value than honesty and a legitimate platform in politics; and when garnering attention and accolades comes from a photo filter and buzzwords instead of authenticity and innovation.

By NIKI TURNER – editor@ht1885.com