It’s not your imagination. Our society really is going to hell on a bullet train.
A study just published by psychologists at UCLA finds that our values have undergone a remarkable downshift over the past decade, with TV a crucial factor in the erosion.
Consider this: In 2007, the top values championed by the TV shows most popular with tweens were fame, achievement, popularity, image and financial success. Ten years prior to that, in 1997, the top priorities were strikingly different: community feeling, benevolence, image, tradition and self-acceptance.
Dropping to the very bottom of the 2007 list were spiritualism and tradition.
Admittedly, the parameters of the study are constrained. Findings are based on two series per decade, the pair of shows most popular with 9-11 year olds. The most recent decade’s data was based on American Idol and Hannah Montana.
Societal mores are mutating in this era of reality show stars, instant Internet notoriety and social media.
“The rise of fame in preteen television may be one influence in the documented rise of narcissism in our culture," says Patricia M. Greenfield, a psychology professor at UCLA and senior author of the study. "Popular television shows are part of the environment that causes the increased narcissism, but they also reflect the culture. They both reflect it and serve as a powerful socialization force for the next generation.
“"If you have 400 or more Facebook friends, which many high school and college students do, you are on stage," she continues. "It's intrinsically narcissistic."
Say hello to the Mirror-mirror-on-the-wall generation, nursed on a toxic mix of entitlement and vanity.