Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Young Urban Narcissists

Original post: 8/8/07
Revised: 10/08

"Yunnie" stands for Young Urban Narcissist
. An obvious play on the outmoded "yuppie," this neologism is my attempt, using applied psychoanalytic theory, to grasp a mass cultural shift currently generating and feeding on tremendous change in New York City--and much of the country.

While "yuppie" was aimed at professionals, describing people of a certain socioeconomic bracket, "yunnie" describes a characterological type. Malignant narcissists exist across all socioeconomic strata, but may be more prevalent among the upwardly mobile.

I originally introduced the yunnie idea in this post in August of 2007. Since then, my ideas about the narcissistic personality and its effect on New York City have evolved. One benefit of a blog is that it's rewritable. Using some of that original post combined with new material, I'll be revising the description of "yunnie" here, filling in the blanks and fleshing it out in better detail, and adding links from outside sources.

As of 3/09, the idea of An Age of Narcissism has caught fire in the media. This Slate article provides an excellent overview.

A 6/12 cover story in New York magazine outlines research into the ways that having money, pursuing money, even thinking about money reduces one's empathy and makes you more, basically, narcissistic.

In 1/13, Consumer Affairs asked, "Are today's young people deluded narcissists?"

May 2013 TIME cover: "Here's the cold, hard data: The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that's now 65 or older..."

My following posts pretty much sum up my ideas on the topic:

From the original post:

New York City is being destroyed, block by block, building by building. Who are the people responsible for this? What do they want and what do they fear?

They are terrified of the unfamiliar and cling to the known. When in unfamiliar settings, separated from their soothing cellular phones and forced to stand in line with nothing to do but think, they become extremely anxious. This anxiety, an irrational fear of annihilation, sends them into a primitive, infantile rage.

These people are Young Urban Narcissists, or Yunnies. A narcissistic personality is essentially created by inconsistent, frustrating parents. It makes sense that Yunnies would be attracted to the consistent and the gratifying. Chain stores like Starbucks and Walgreens promise both--the Yunnies always know what to expect and are rarely disappointed. The giant condo complexes they live in offer round-the-clock services and gratify their infantile needs.

Yunnies are the perfect neighborhood destruction machines due to their lack of empathy, sense of entitlement, and contempt for those "beneath" them. Their rage against mom-&-pop shops, I believe, comes in part from the very name "mom & pop," which arouses their envy, reminding them of the "bad object" parents of their infancy. The fallible humanity of these shops inevitably disappoints and frustrates the Yunnies. "What do you mean you're out of skim milk?" they tantrum, and "I can take my dog wherever I want!"

Watch out. Arm yourself with the facts about Yunnies:
- They feel cut off from real human connection so they create constant pseudo-connections via cell phones or Blackberries.
- They feel empty and express their aggression through oral rage, shopping compulsively and consuming aggressively.
- They are grandiose and believe the world revolves around them.
- They demand constant attention--shouting into cell phones and making dramatic scenes is a favorite way to draw attention to themselves.
- Their hidden, deep belief in their own worthlessness makes them strive for high-status jobs and condo lifestyles, where a false sense of power temporarily lifts them up.
- At the extreme end, Yunnies are sociopathic, without conscience and without remorse--these are the most dangerous and, I believe, the fastest growing subgroup.

Note 1/2/10: Maybe the ultimate end of this solipsistic personality type is autism, a narcissism so extreme, it becomes locked in. Maybe it's in the brain. From The Smart Set: "Our contemporary culture, with its loneliness and its materialism and disjointed nature, is typical of left brain dominance. As such, we have autism, which is an almost total dysfunction of the right brain: an inability to read facial expressions, a lack of empathy, failure to recognize metaphor or irony."

A few NY Times articles:
Narcissism on the rise?
Everyone's a narcissist (and misunderstand the term)
Situational narcissism


Charity NC West said...

This was a fantastic post. Not a native New Yorker, but I completely agree. "Yunnies" are destroying the entire culture in which we live. Let's face it, thanks to shows like NYC Prep, they are the culture.

thegaycurmudgeon said...

Yes, yes, yes! There's finally a word for those people I hear screaming outside my apartment every weekend.

hi said...

Autists are not "narcissists", please don't use words you don't understand as pejoratives.

esquared said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
esquared said...

wrong link...

correct one --

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Reading this post is like having an oracle. Jeremiah--it's fantastically well said and accurate. I grew up in the Village and points in Soho, and in horror, have been trying to describe the cultural and atmopspheric changes that have been happening in these areas since the mid 80's--their acquisitiveness has a hungry termite quality.

Thank you.

laura said...

the whole world is caught up in shopping & what ever. you wouldnt believe india.

Anonymous said...

I think your observations are accurate, but I think the problem isn't just with New York. I've seen the same type of behaviour in places like Ottawa and Toronto in Canada. So I think the problem is endemic and can be found pretty much in any urban situation worldwide.

I know someone in Toronto who is a super MBA type HR administrator.

Just read this BS. It's yuppie speak. They have their own superfluous superficial language and unless you speak that language you're not part of the club. You have to write this crap on resumes nowadays if you don't your resume to get tossed in the recycling bin.

She and my brother came to visit us and all she did while she was complain about this and that. She was complaining that our housekeeping standards were low. She has the benefit of a minimum wage maid from Central America to clean her toilet bowl to a sparkling shine so they can see the reflection of their deluded perfect narcissistic selves in the water.

When I had enough of her BS, I gave the both of them the coldest icy murderous killer Tony Soprano stare and still they never got the hint to leave. Furthermore, they invited themselves over again until I had to use brutal honesty and told them they had an inflated sense of themselves and their capabilities and that if they came I would stand an 1/8 of inch from their face and give a West Point style dressing down in order to teach them some respect.

Can you imagine if you still had the military draft in the U.S.? Could you picture these people pinned down by gunfire on some mountainside in Afghanistan? You would lose the war and the taliban would be marching down Broadway in no time.