It should be no brainer to realize that the Internet has become a new breeding ground for the “me" culture — from selfies to pointless tweets and so forth. In fact, the growing number of research studies continue to indicate that Americans are emphasizing individualism more than ever before. Meanwhile, a new study reveals that contemporary English books have been becoming less emotionally expressive since 1960s. The researchers note that the results also coincide with studies finding an apparent increase in narcissism over the decades.
While there’s no proof that this is more than a correlation (not causality), designers of all background should be aware of these implications and practice their work in both appropriate and ethical fashion. Merely copying and executing design trends without thinking through the consequences is a sure way to undo our progress as designers.
Here are the summaries of four articles that describe the trends occurring in music, literature and social media.
According to a research team at University of Kentukcly led by C. Nathan DeWall, “popular music lyrics now include more words related to a focus on the self." By analyzing keywords in lyrics of the top ten songs in the US from 1980 to 2007, the research team found that the use of first-person singular pronouns such as I, me and mine have increased over third-person plural pronouns such as we, us and our declined. Furthermore, the frequency of terms depicting social interactions and positive emotions went down.
Another research team led by San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge reported that the "language in American books has become increasingly focused on the self and uniqueness in the decades since 1960s." The frequency of words and phrases that convey individualism such as “independent," “all about me," “I am special" and “I get what I want" went up while the frequency of communal words and phrases such as “teamwork," “band together" and “common good" went down. The findings also suggest that words that connote hyper-individualism such as “identity," “personalized," “self," “standout" and “unique" experienced the largest increase in usage.
3. Social Media
"Self-esteem and narcissism are often interrelated but don’t always go hand in hand. Some psychologists believe that narcissists—those who have a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, as well as a lack of empathy—unconsciously inflate their sense of self-importance as a defense against feeling inadequate. Not enough empirical research has been produced to confirm that link, although Mehdizadeh’s study seems to support it. Because narcissists have less capacity to sustain intimate or long-term relationships, Mehdizadeh thinks that they would be more drawn to the online world of virtual friends and emotionally detached communication."
"Although it seems that Facebook can be used by narcissists to fuel their inflated egos, Mehdizadeh stops short of proclaiming that excessive time spent on Facebook can turn regular users into narcissists. She also notes that social-networking sites might ultimately be found to have positive effects when used by people with low self-esteem or depression."
“If individuals with lower self-esteem are more prone to using Facebook," she says, “the question becomes, ‘Can Facebook help raise self-esteem by allowing patients to talk to each other and help each other in a socially interactive environment?’ I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that people with low self-esteem use Facebook."
via Pacific Standard, Pacific Standard, Salon and Scientific American