Posts Tagged ‘Narcissism’

Jennifer Lawrence, nude selfies and glass houses

October 9, 2014

I have been amazed at the media coverage and clamour around the stealing and dissemination of nude selfies of celebrities. A boon for their publicists tasked with keeping them in the public eye. But, I find Jennifer Lawrences’s indignation and outrage quite unconvincing. She believes that those who look at her naked pictures are committing a “sex-crime”. She claims that she uploaded nude pictures of herself to the internet for private viewing by her boyfriend as an alternative to the pornography that he might otherwise have resorted to. But whether or not her selfies were in themselves some type of pornography (albeit for private viewing) does not really interest me.

The point is that she – and all the other celebrities – now displaying righteous indignation, chose the material to be stored and chose the medium of storage themselves.

Anybody who believes that the internet and especially the cloud is some secure, opaque, impregnable storage container is just plain stupid.

Hacking or leaking or stealing of nude pictures is just as – but not more or less – reprehensible than the hacking or leaking or stealing of any private material stored in the cloud. For that the internet or cloud storage provider must take responsibility – especially if they have claimed a greater level of security than they can actually provide. If a crime has been committed the nature of the material hacked or leaked or stolen does not make the crime any more or less heinous. But the type of material stored and the choice of storage provider is the responsibility of the individual.

Any householder would bear some responsibility for his house being burgled if he left the windows open and the doors unlocked. He would also bear some responsibility if sensitive or valuable material he stupidly chose to keep in an unsafe storage place was stolen.  And so with nude selfies stored in the cloud. The apparently narcissistic individuals who chose to upload the “alternative-to-pornography” pictures of themselves, and also chose the storage place for the material cannot avoid some share of responsibility for the subsequent theft and dissemination of the pictures.

The “right” to privacy of an individual cannot apply if that individual releases  – or by carelessness facilitates  the release –  of material into the public domain. And whether hacked or not, the cloud is a pretty public place. Not only is it a public storage place it is a container with glass walls.

Suppose you built a house of glass where the glass manufacturer claimed that it was one way glass and nobody could see in. Suppose further that the glass was in fact transparent and somebody took pictures of you as you danced naked inside. You might have a claim against the glass manufacturer, but you would have no claim against the peeping Tom. Only if the voyeur had broken the glass to look in would you have a claim against him but not against the crowd that gathered to gawp at you cavorting naked within your glass house with a broken window.

Stupidity does not excuse the crime but the “victims” here are not without some culpability

Di Caprio puts on an act for climate change

September 26, 2014

I am always more than a little suspicious when a “celebrity” starts supporting some “benevolent” cause. My suspicions are directed primarily at the cause – not so so much at the celebrity. The celebrities are celebrities because they want to be. Their narcissistic urges are usually very well developed. But any “cause” which has to enlist the use of celebrities – with no particular qualifications other than being well known – to prop up its justification for existing is demeaned and damaged by the exercise. The celebrities of course get the extra exposure they so yearn for.

Whether it is Victoria Beckham on Millenium goals or George Clooney on Poverty or Arundhati Roy on dams or now Leonard Di Caprio on Climate, I find the causes are damaged while the celebrities satisfy their narcissistic urges. Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger must be the kiss of death for the causes he supportsIn fact studies have shown that the good causes of the famous ‘benefit themselves more than the charities

The chief beneficiaries of star-studded attempts to raise the profile of a good cause are the celebrity themselves, according to sociologists, who say the appearance of altruism makes them more popular with the public.

Two pieces of research by UK academics argue that “the ability of celebrity and advocacy to reach people is limited” and that celebrities are “generally ineffective” at encouraging people to care about foreign causes.

But the publicity surrounding Di Caprio this week has been particularly gratuitous and unconvincing. He attended President Obama’s speech about Climate at the UN on Tuesday:

RCP: ……… But it was President Obama who provided the most visible sign that the talks were heading in the wrong direction. Arriving late, the president looked as if he’d rather be anywhere else. The president’s tone in speaking to his fellow leaders and delegates was as if he were talking to a meeting of congressional Republicans. Five years had passed since the failure of the previous round of talks at Copenhagen, he said. Since then, the scientific understanding had advanced. What was once a distant threat had, the president claimed, moved firmly into the present, although the president did not mention that global temperatures have been flat for a decade and a half and that there had been little scientific advance to explain it.

Those words were prologue to the president’s blunt warning. The U.S. is stepping up to the plate, the president declared. The U.S. must be joined by other nations. Nobody gets a pass, especially the big emerging economies, climate change code for India and China, whose leaders were giving the summit a pass. Solving climate change was a matter of taking a lead, the president said, making the improbable claim that giving a lead is what the United Nations General Assembly is for.

There were quite a number of empty seats in the chamber as the president spoke. Secretary of State John Kerry played with his BlackBerry. Many looked bored. At the end of the president’s remarks, the most enthusiastic applause came from DiCaprio. Perhaps that’s because he’s good actor. The climate change talks might be attracting dwindling audiences. But there’s one thing you can bet on: the climate change show will run and run. 

Ah Well.

Maybe there is a silver lining in the celebrity cloud.

Tattooed ladies on Drottninggatan

July 16, 2014

So we were in Stockholm with some guests from the UK and engaging in typical tourist activities. The sun was shining with a light wind and the program was to walk down Drottninggatan to Gamla Stan and wander around the Old Town and the Royal Palace for a few hours. But my knees were playing up and it was decided that my services as a tour guide were not really either necessary or useful. I would be better employed – we concluded – in watching the tourists rather than being a tourist.

I took up station at an outdoor cafe sometime before noon. I chose my table carefully to maximise my time in the sun. I was well armed with a large coffee and a small Danish. And the world went by. (I have no doubt that every one who visits Stockholm does – at some time – walk down Drottninggatan and past my observation post).

The analogy was of watching water flowing in a river – but in both directions simultaneously. The passers-by moved in little waves, in ripples, in eddies swirling about and in large waves. Sometimes they trickled by, at times they surged past and sometimes they surged and receded and surged past again. Some determined individuals strode by with clear direction and objectives, others merely loafed by with a general sense of direction of flow but with no great urgency. Some weaved from one shop window on one side to the next on the other – but still generally forward. Some few clumps moved first in one direction, then reversed course and moved back as they caught sight of something they fancied. Kids milled around, lost sight of their parents and then found them again. Large waves of tour groups (one Chinese, one Japanese and one which sounded Russian) flooded past. But there were no collisions.

It was time for some anthropology.

Two individuals, one male and one female, went past – separately – fishing out aluminium cans from every rubbish bin. The female – by dress presumably Roma – was equipped with a trolley for her collection, wore plastic gloves  and left the rubbish bins pretty much as she found them. No fuss, no muss. The man used plastic carrier bags but left a trail of candy wrappings behind him. No fuss but much mess till the street sweeper also came by.

Inevitably one sat and watched the girls go by. Some were dressed for a Caribbean beach. Others for an Arctic winter. Nineteen out of 225 had visible tattoos (the count ended at 225 since I needed to refill my coffee). Maybe not universally representative but just under 10% of those surveyed had visible tattoos. Tattoos on arms and legs were the most common. Tattoos on ankles, a few on the face and on the back of the neck were also apparent and no special efforts were necessary to make them visible. Some were on shoulders and thighs and stomachs and chests. Here clothes – or more accurately a lack of clothing – had been chosen to make the tattoos clearly visible. Of course the number of tattooed ladies with hidden tattoos cannot be commented upon. Generally the tattoos were in shades of black but some use of reds and greens and yellows was also evident. It was a lovely day but fairly breezy and not quite warm enough for the level of undress on display. It seemed that every lady silly enough to walk bare-shouldered or bare-stomached or in a bikini top, had chosen to do so because she had a tattoo to display.

(I just note in passing that those men I observed who had  bare shoulders or chests also inevitably had some tattoo to display and triceps or abs struggling to be admired).

But the tattoos were all – every single one – ugly and disfiguring to my eyes. Not one added to the attractiveness of the subject. The already pretty girls sought to enhance their attractiveness – and failed. Attention was diverted from their inherent attractiveness to their ugly tattoos. The not so pretty ones seemed to be using exhibitionism to attract attention (as an alternative to being seen as attractive) – and also failed. The eye was drawn to the ugly tattoo and only reinforced the shortfall of “attractiveness”.

Why do people get tattoos? My less than scientific study leads me to the following “conclusions”. Like jewelry or piercings or articles of fashion or hair-styling,  it can only be to attract the attention of those around. Attracting attention itself can only be for the purpose of being “admired” or of being seen as “different” or “unique” or as a “badge”. It cannot – usually – be for the purpose of attracting contempt (though it could be for being seen as a “rebel” where some contempt is then accepted as collateral damage). Fundamentally it is for the narcissism in us, for satisfying the “Look at Me” syndrome or for the “I am Special” syndrome.

After 3 cups of coffee I needed some beer and so I had to move. But some things were clear. Tattoos are a disfigurement and are all ugly. And whatever the narcissistic aims of the tattooed ladies, they were counter-productive.


Another headline chasing psychologist is censured

August 7, 2013

What is it about social psychology and psychologists that causes them particularly to chase notoriety and public attention even to the extent of faking data? Diedrik Stapel and Marc Hauser being recent high profile cases. Could it just be that they are all suffer from a narcissism which can only be satisfied by generating headlines and generally being in the limelight?

Now a certain Geoffrey Miller – supposedly an “evolutionary psychologist” – has been publicly censured by New York University  for essentially behaving like an idiot and then lying about it. After tweeting a stupid and offensive remark he then tried to pass it off as part of a research project! He has now apologised – a bit late – and deleted the tweet. But his self-promotional intentions were recognised. Apparently he researches into how the human mind evolved. (Or as is pretty obvious –  didn’t evolve for some).

“The Tweeting activities of associate professor Geoffrey Miller did not rise to the level of research,” said a statement from the IRB on the university’s website.

“The board concluded that Miller’s Tweets were self-promotional in nature and did not follow research criteria which require specific research questions or hypotheses, systematic methods for collection quantitative and/or qualitative data and criteria for selecting respondents.”

He is an Associate Professor at the University of New Mexico and visiting NYU

The Times Higher Education covers the developments:

A US professor who Tweeted that if overweight PhD applicants “didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs” then they “won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation” has been formally censured by his university.

Geoffrey Miller Twitter page

Geoffrey Miller Twitter page

Geoffrey Miller, associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, apologised after sending the Tweet, which he subsequently deleted. He later told UNM it had been part of a research project – a claim dismissed by the university

The institution has now formally censured Professor Miller for “misrepresenting to his department chair and colleagues the motivation for a Tweet”. 

“Miller at first claimed his Tweet was part of a research project, but investigations by the Institutional Review Board at New York University where he was a visiting professor, and the IRB at UNM where he is a tenured professor, concluded that was not correct,” a statement from his university read. 

As part of the censure, Professor Miller will be required to develop “a plan for sensitivity training as it pertains to obesity” in cooperation with the UNM psychology department, and apologise to colleagues for his behavior. 

Professor Miller, who can appeal the censure, will also have his work monitored by the chair of the psychology department, and will be assigned a faculty mentor for three years, with whom he will meet on a regular basis to discuss potential problems.

Is Facebook a forum for narcissists (and maybe also for narcissistic researchers?)

March 19, 2013

Facebook is providing a fertile hunting ground for simplistic “research” by a new breed of “researchers”. Social psychology is still just a discipline and has yet to reach the level of a “science”. But I note that surveys of Facebook users is multiplying and seems to have  become a new field of social psychology. The surveys are easily done, usually include a sample size of just a few hundred (small enough to access on a University campus or in a town square) and draw fanciful conclusions to capture the headlines. They provide an easy way to publication. Such “Facebook research” is not “bad science” – if even “science” at all – but much of it is trivial and just provides a quick, cheap way of getting published. In this case the “research” has been done by someone from the School of Computing at the University of Portsmouth.

The University of Portsmouth has issued a press release  about a survey which finds that “Using Facebook to look at old photos of yourself and wall posts that you have written could be as soothing as a walk in the park” and this has received much coverage. But whereas the “researchers” find this beneficial, what they they seem to be describing is a sort of narcissistic – and not very healthy – behaviour. Narcissism is when a healthy self-esteem crosses over into being an unhealthy obsession with one’s self and I would have thought that the survey results are a warning sign. But of course the behaviour described would be considered beneficial – by another narcissist.

Using Facebook to look at old photos of yourself and wall posts that you have written could be as soothing as a walk in the parkAlmost 90 percent of users access the site to look at their own wall posts, and three quarters look at their own photos when they are feeling low, new research has found.

A report by Dr Alice Good, of the University of Portsmouth, has found that this kind of ‘self soothing’ use of Facebook is actually beneficial to the user’s mood, especially if they are prone to feeling low. This directly contradicts previous research that has suggested that looking at Facebook can be bad for your mental health.

Dr Alice Good

Dr Good said: “We were very surprised by these findings, which contradict some recent reports.  Although this was only a small study, we will go on to study larger groups to see if the results remain consistent.”

Dr Good, of the School of Computing, quizzed 144 Facebook users and found that people often use the social network to reminisce, using old photos and wall posts as a form of comfort.

Looking back at older photos and wall posts is the main activity, and the one that made them happiest.

Psychologist Dr Clare Wilson, of the University of Portsmouth says:

“Although this is a pilot study, these findings are fascinating. Facebook is marketed as a means of communicating with others. Yet this research shows we are more likely to use it to connect with our past selves, perhaps when our present selves need reassuring.

“The pictures we often post are reminders of a positive past event. When in the grips of a negative mood, it is too easy to forget how good we often feel. Our positive posts can remind us of this.”

The survey also found that people who have experienced mental health issues are particularly comforted by the site. Dr Good said: “The results indicate we could use self-soothing as a form of treatment for low moods.”

The study has concluded that looking at comforting photos, known as reminiscent therapy, could be an effective method of treating mental health.

Scientists already know that reminiscent therapy helps older people with memory problems.

The use of old photos, items and films can provide a way for people with short-term memory loss to feel comforted by objects that are familiar to them.

This new research shows that it could also an effective treatment for people with depression or anxiety.

The act of self-soothing is an essential tool in helping people to calm down, especially if they have an existing mental health condition. If a patient self soothes there is less chance of a problem escalating.

The report also looked at ways of accessing Facebook, with phones being the most popular method and 94 per cent admitting they had their phone on them at all time, with around 70 per cent actually preferring to access Facebook using their phone over more conventional methods, such as a PC or laptop, suggesting people have a desire for immediacy, both in accessing the site as well as for viewing photos.

This study is part of a larger research project that looks at how applications can support wellbeing and effectively self soothe.

This research is published in the journal ‘Lecture Notes in Computer Science: Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction’. Springer Berlin / Heidelberg.

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