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Don't be part of the problem, you pompous dandies

A recent study reports that today's college students are more narcissistic than previous generations. I'm not surprised.

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The study linked narcissism to poor social skills, higher levels of infidelity and game playing, violent behavior, and relationships that are less warm and intimate.

I'm not quite sure why infidelity is in the same category as game playing, but all of these other things could be associated with the rise of information technology and the ways it's changed communication - cell phones, e-mail, instant messages, text messages, chat rooms, and so forth. By vastly shortening the distances between people who live in opposite corners of the globe, instantaneous electronic communication has actually made us quite a bit more distant from the people we see In Real Life every day.

The authors suggested the increase in narcissism might stem from the "self-esteem" movement of the 1980s, in which parents and school programs worked to improve the self-esteem of children.

I always worried about that. The biggest jerks I know are invariably the most egotistical people I know. They already esteem themselves so much more highly than the losers they pick on; what good does it do to raise their self-esteem even higher? And it's such an impediment to self-improvement and learning when you're convinced you're already perfect and know everything. I once met a philosopher who defined arrogance as the belief that you have nothing to learn from other people (V. Tiberius and J. Walker, APhQ 35(4):379-390, 1998, if you're into reading), and I've never really encountered a better definition, even though that one seems so contrived at first.

Finance and nonprofit management junior Eric Larsen said he disagrees with the study's findings, citing his experience with Students Today Leaders Forever, an organization that puts on the annual Pay It Forward Tour, in which students complete community service projects in a different city during spring break.

"I would describe (our generation) as more willing to give up their time … more socially aware and more capable of making a positive impact," he said.

Goody-goody activists are more self-regarding than anyone! You have to be pretty self-centered to inundate me with as much propaganda about your activities as STLF does, I should think - they're almost as bad as Teach for America. Look how he managed to plug an event in his interview. Superficial, résumé-building volunteerism for feel-good causes that really don't address any big problems facing the world is pure ego-masturbation; when all else fails, you can say "I may spend two hours a day adjusting my hairdo, but I spend three hours a week presenting a semaphore version of The Purpose-Driven Life to bored residents of the upscale retirement home at the other end of my suburban hometown."

Well, I can sympathize. I used to be a narcissist myself, in fact. But not anymore; now I'm simply perfect.