(The Champ’s latest at Complex Magazine on the irony of us criticizing Kanye for being narcissistic.)
Of all his questionable behavior—his consistently disturbing lyrics about women, his co-opting the Confederate flag, his introducing us to Big Sean, etc.—the narcissism seems to bother most of us the most. Everything he now does—the interviews he allows, the woman he proposes to, the clothes he wears, the music he creates, even the child he produces—is seen through this lens. This obsession with himself and his image is our most concrete evidence that Kanye West no longer represents anybody, and this bothers us. We think we lost Kanye. To himself. But we’re wrong. Kanye West never stopped representing us. He’s just representing a part of us we don’t necessarily want represented.
I have a little under 1400 Facebook friends. Of these, I’ve met (maybe) 30 percent in person. And (maybe) 30 percent of that 30 percent are people I’d actually consider friends. I also have 14,000 Facebook fans I’ll never meet, and 11,000 Twitter followers I wouldn’t know if they were sitting on my living room couch. Yet, I seem to care very much about what these anonymous people think of me. It’s not uncommon for me to spend three minutes editing a tweet it only took three seconds to type, and 30 more minutes thinking I should have typed something else. I feel good when even my most mundane status messages are liked by people I’ve never met, and even better if those people happen to be people I consider “cool.” I try very hard to say the type of “witty” and “insightful” things that make it seem like I’m not trying very hard, with the hope that people I don’t know appreciate it so much that they share it with people they don’t know.
What is remarkable about what I’m saying is the fact that nothing I’m saying is remarkable. I may have more friends, fans, and followers than most (I certainly have fewer than some!) but my behavior is not abnormal. We’re all A&Rs of our own personal brands now, and part of maintaining that brand is soliciting acknowledgement from strangers. And part of soliciting acknowledgement from strangers is being hyperconscious of your image. We know which angles give us the most flattering pictures, and we’re annoyed when we get tagged in a photo without our permission because we can’t fathom letting people know what we really look like. We’re more meticulous about the image we want to project than we are about actually wanting our person to match our persona.
We are undeniably and unambiguously narcissistic.
I’m far from the first person to notice any of this. The editors of Oxford University Press just chose “selfie” as 2013’s “word of the year.” If that’s not a sure sign of humanity-wide narcissism, I don’t know what is. In fact, some psychologists believe we are living through a full-fledged narcissism epidemic. In “Narcissism: The Malady of Me” the New York Times’ Benedict Carey writes that narcissism has become so common that behavioral scientists are reconsidering the definition—and this was published three years ago. Before Twitter became ubiquitous. And before the Pope got on Instagram.
With our generally accepted narcissism comes an implied code of conduct. This code of conduct has one rule. It is okay to be narcissistic. Necessary even. The only condition is that you just can’t admit that you care about your image as much as you care about your image. Kanye West has no such pretense. He has no rules. He is exceedingly, almost maddeningly transparent about how much he cares about how he is perceived. And about the importance of acknowledgement. And about his image. The only difference between his narcissism and our narcissism is that he doesn’t pretend it doesn’t exist. He acknowledges it. Embraces it. Swims in it. Fucks it. He’s too [insert adjective here] to be as self-conscious as we are about admitting to it. Naturally, he fell in love with the only woman who matches his translucence.
(Read the rest at Complex)