Monday, September 29, 2008

A Nation of Narcissists

This is so true. We are all narcissists. We are just too damn narcissistic to figure it out. This is from The Week magazine. I hope I don't get in trouble for posting it. My sister suggested I subscribe, and I love the publication. I would recommend it to anyone.

Facebook and Twitter: The new pornography

“Americans are now more interested in social networks than pornography,” said Robert Cringely in “No, that is not a typo.” For as long as there has been a World Wide Web, eyeballing porn has been far and away the most popular activity on the Internet. No longer. Self-described “data geek” Bill Tancer contends in a new book that surfing for porn has dropped from 20 percent of all Internet searches a decade ago to 10 percent today, while traffic on networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter is soaring. Skeptics note that porn consumers no longer need search engines to find sites featuring sexual content—that’s what bookmarks are for. But I’d argue that Tancer is missing another key point: For most young people today, “social networks are pornography. Have you seen some of those profiles?”

It’s not just the bra and underwear photos that make the networking sites pornographic, said Eric Adler in The Kansas City Star. To an obscene degree, they are “self-absorbed and narcissistic.” Millions of young people spend hours a day checking out their friends’ profiles while obsessively updating their own profiles with new photos, along with the most mundane of tidbits—from what they ate for lunch to the song they’re listening to that very moment. Never in history has there been so much “self-documentation,” and it’s having a profound impact on how people relate. “Today,” says Stanford University’s B.J. Fogg, “if you choose not to do Facebook in college, you have all but chosen to be a social isolate.”

To people over 30, said Clive Thompson in The New York Times Magazine, “the idea of describing your blow-by-blow activities in such detail is absurd.” Yet experiencing it, as I recently did, changes your perspective entirely. While all those individual factoids are petty on their own, “taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends and family members’ lives—like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting.” At the same time, “the act of stopping several times a day to observe what you’re feeling or thinking can become, after weeks and weeks, a sort of philosophical act.” That’s certainly a high-minded way of looking at “la vida Facebook,” said Chuck Crowder in the Chattanooga, Tenn., Pulse. You could also just say that Facebook is so successful for the same reason that porn always has been: “We’re all voyeurs.”

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