Social media and the flu of narcissism
Gabriel turned one year old last week. He is our precious little one who will be my wife’s and my proxy to the next generation.
Two weeks before Gabriel’s birthday, we got the scare of our lives when he contracted a 40-degree fever, at a time when news headlines were screaming of a dengue epidemic nationwide. After two blood tests that were physically agonizing for the baby and emotionally tormenting for us his parents, dengue was thankfully ruled out.
The diagnosis was pneumonia, which was no less serious because phlegm clogged his lungs, requiring his hospital confinement due to breathing difficulties.
While we were in the hospital, news came out that pigs were dying in Luzon because of a suspected deadly virus. It was later confirmed that the culprit was the African swine flu, a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease of pigs that has a mortality rate of as high as 100 percent. Thousands of pigs are now being culled to stop the spread of the virus in the country.
While health officials assure the public that the African swine flu does not pose a risk to human health, it did little to allay my fears as a parent, especially knowing that diseases like HIV, H1N1 influenza, avian influenza, dengue and leptospirosis are diseases that originally afflicted or are carried by monkeys, pigs, birds, mosquitoes and rats, respectively, but which eventually infected humans.
When you have a baby, any fast-spreading virus that causes illness or kills any living creature becomes a magnified cause for concern.
During Gabriel’s birthday celebration, a different kind of health risk to children was brought to my attention. A friend of mine, a high-ranking executive of one of the top universities in the country, shared that there is now an epidemic of psychological depression among college students.
From my friend’s interaction with officials of other schools, mental depression has been noted to be widespread in both public and private colleges and universities. It afflicts students whether they come from rich or poor families, and regardless of whether they were raised in cities or provinces. He likewise shared that school officials are not adequately equipped to deal with this mental health problem because of its magnitude and complexity.
In past gatherings with friends and family, I’ve heard it mentioned a few times that mental depression is getting serious in many schools. I even have a couple of friends whose children or young relatives took their own lives because of mental depression. But it was the first time I heard of the problem
being described as one of epidemic proportions. Coming from someone privy to educational system-wide information, the problem is really very alarming.
My friend suspects that addiction to social media is a huge contributory factor to this widespread mental depression afflicting our youth. He describes it as the constant pressure to “keep up with the Joneses.” He’s referring to the fact that our youth are bombarded daily with posts, tweets and pictures by their online “friends” that engender envy and social pressure to covet the same — travel, food, enviable physical features and material possessions. These create a feeling of want and beget a mindset of inadequacy.
Judging from the kind of information and images shared abundantly on online platforms, it’s easy to understand why experts are warning that narcissistic personality disorder is rising among those who overuse social media. The disorder refers to a psychological and behavioral temperament characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, sense of entitlement, constant need for excessive admiration, lack of empathy and preoccupation with fantasies about success, power, brilliance and beauty.
Among our adult population, narcissism is a behavior associated with the most undesirable of our politicians — those who are overly obsessed with wealth, power and fame.
It turns out that narcissism is another swine flu. What a scary thought that our children are getting plagued and infected with the virus.
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