Real life is getting less real every day.

Somehow, the so-called reality shows or social media personalities have successfully skewed a generation of people’s views of what is, well, real. And for that, I am concerned.

Today’s world is an odd mix of media obsession — one where it seems better to be a part of the noise than on the outside looking in. With Facebook, Instagram and other on-demand tools, we can share without meaningful context any moment in our life. Contributors control the message, the volume and the anticipated response by the receiver. Essentially, narcissism runs wild.

I often find myself wondering what American psychologist Abraham Maslow would say.

For those who may be rusty on his career-defining work, appropriately titled “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” the pathway he described traces from the basic levels of needs (physiological) to one of fully formed independence (self-actualization). While the former includes basics such as air, water and shelter, the road builds upon others such as safety and social belongingness.

But it is here — after only three steps through the five tiers — I am progressively worried.

The next step, titled self-esteem, is not only under great threat but, if undeveloped, will keep one from reaching the top tier of self-actualization — the place where we become confident, balanced and resilient to anything the world can throw our way.

Today’s narcissism is a needle to the arm of an addict delivering an instant, yet hollow, high on demand. Imagine the benefit you get from eating cotton candy and you get the idea. Swinging emotions and rotting teeth.

Previous generations needed to work through each of these levels based on real-life experiences. Two steps forward, one step back. Repeat. Over time, we build our life based on comparing ourselves not to those on a social media feed but the man or woman in the mirror. The journey of building confidence and acceptance runs right through a road filled with jarring potholes and occasionally dark detours.

But with each chapter, another solid paver was added to our pathway toward self-actualization. And when we arrived, we recognized it from the inside, not someone on the outside passing judgment. We were self-actualized, comfortable in our skin and resistant to the influences of others or the outside world.

What we are seeing today is a life where we are dangerously careening down a road where our self-assessments are replaced by those of others — where we become more trusting and dependent on the opinions of others than ourselves. And by doing so, we become highly susceptible to untrue influences, actions unmoored by principles and making decisions more consistent with receiving the acceptance of others than from within.

What I worry about is a generation of people who, stunted by overwhelming peer pressure of social media or reality-TV-based lives, will find reaching the top of Maslow’s important hierarchy nearly impossible. And it’s there, at the top of the figurative mountain where we find self-actualization, we are able to see more clearly the possibilities of life.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in the May 6, 2018, edition of The Daily News.

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207; leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com.

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(4) comments

Ralph Mcmorris

best editorial you've done. Thank you!

Jack Reeves

[thumbup][thumbup]

Raymond Lewis

A timely piece Mr. Editor.

David Hardee

Without intending to muddy the good theme of this article (This column first appeared in the May 6, 2018, edition of The Daily News.)- from 3 years and six months ago - and still appropriate today - but to broaden it to the reality of our living in this current environment I submit the following.

Appropriate presentation of the pyramid of a single individual as to the development of a healthy psyche by Maslow. It is unfortunately the actual pattern of an individual's life in society that will make him a mess. I prefer the descriptions presented by Charles Murray's pyramids as the learning tool for arming oneself to cope, understand and defend against the realities of those intrusions that cause/influence the construction of an individual's psyche. A healthy person's biological needs are filled easy in our nanny society filled with institutions to meet all the physical needs (the figurative needle in the addict's arm). But each institution's injection comes with a cost (surrendering of the individual's self esteem).

A lucid description of our current societal environment is that we (each individual) are enticed to a ward of the state/institutions. Free stuff is everywhere and all you have to do to get it is to appear to have a need. Our institutions even blast us with advertisements to come and get it - addictions, abortions, school loan with debt forgiveness, etc, - qualifying is liberally subjective by some bureaucrat - and if you need it just take it because the law against stealing is malleable for those with a perception. And if you want self esteem massage for any of your peculiarity there is a sub-society you can join for enabling and comradery.

Our society is on a disastrous path.

Inserting this comment into an article that is good is simply a follow on to the authors statement, “will find reaching the top of Maslow’s important hierarchy nearly impossible.” 3 year 6 months later.

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