I’ll be honest, when I read Gawker’s “Journalism is not Narcissism” last week, I tellingly thought it was a direct attack at me. The piece addressed an apparent flaw in how the American collegiate system teaches journalism. I am American, I went to college, and I was effectively taught how to become a journalist. But am I one? No. And why? Because I’d rather talk about me.
I’d originally seen the article because a former college professor of mine (he taught Criticism at The New School) posted it to his Facebook wall, teased with a line that read, “if you’ve been a student of mine, tattoo this to your ass.” Was that, too, a personal attack at me? Irony smacked me with a frying pan when I began reading and noticed another former college professor of mine (she taught Writing for Publication at The New School) was quoted in the article (for the sake of contention) waxing such controversial poetic as: “You have to grab the reader by the throat immediately, which is why I launched my second memoir with the line ‘In December my husband stopped screwing me.’” I had gotten an A in her class and now I had to wonder if that’s where I’d began fucking up.
Gawker isn’t wrong. The ability to anchor a good story and simultaneously possess the gift to share that story with tender, beautiful words is almost as true a rarity as a live seal reading The New Yorker over coffee at The Bowery Hotel. This is where the journalist, with his/her literary skill comes in: to season and finish preparing that already-cooked-but-not-quite-there-yet, meat.
The quoted professor isn’t wrong either–proven by a statistic offered in this week’s New York Magazine clocking in the number of Self Help books available for purchase at over 35,000. Where there’s that much supply, there’s obviously hearty demand, and when the demand in question all but speaks to the nature of our unanimously unilateral narcissistic demeanor (the writer is writing about him/herself, the reader is hoping to learn something about him/herself), we’ve got to wonder where we’re heading.
Subsisting in a world that is macroscopically catered to appease our independent selves is getting tiring. In reflecting on the epic re-branding of Apple Inc., it’s obvious that iPods, iMacs, iPhones, and iPads have changed the way in which we interact with technology, and due to the oneness factor, ourselves. With the growing popularity of consumption by way of tailored-to-self subscription, it is near impossible to step away from our newly-forged communi-me’s. At WWD’s CEO Summit earlier this week, Karl Lagerfeld noted that he has more couture clients now than he did 20 years ago. Isn’t that telling? Who needs ready-to-wear when we can have ready-for-me? Finally, with the inevitability that we have all become our own brands because of social media, we have also become obsessed with preserving ourselves. In 2013, we’re not really Generation Y anymore; we’ve become Generation I.
And if I know one thing about the collective us, it is that we’re obsessed with achieving happiness. I blame self-help. Reading true, naked tales of combat, defeat and a sweeping lesson learned from the devil’s mouth is honest, raw, and touching. It also incites feelings of inadequacy though. How can the writer arrive at this wildly fulfilling life, while, we, the reader, recoil at the thought of it?
Yesterday, I asked my younger brother if he thinks true, euphoric happiness is a real place. Admittedly, I’d began thinking that there are fleeting moments of happiness on a journey, yes, but that there’s no real destination. (I think I’m getting my period). He had a different idea. “Of course happiness is a real place, and the key to it is being happy.”
It’s a simple sentiment that when unpacked explains what we all know: state of mind is state of self, and what we feel, how we feel it, what we do with it is wholly in our control. This in turn really makes me wonder: if we’ve become so narcissistic, so obsessed with maintaining, bettering, becoming ourselves, why are we trying to achieve happiness instead of just be it? Conclusively, I want to say that we’ve got the power but that just might be the narcissism talking.