Narcissism Epidemic

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    Apr 26, 2009 1:36 PM GMT

    TRENDS
    Generation Me
    A new book says we're in a narcissism epidemic. Why you're not so special.
    By Raina Kelley | NEWSWEEK
    Published Apr 18, 2009
    From the magazine issue dated Apr 27, 2009

    Growing up, my literary heroines were those who, like me, struggled to be good: Jo from "Little Women," Harriet the spy, Laura Ingalls and Pippi Longstocking. A strong-willed (and loud) child, I craved examples of unruly knuckleheads tethered to a loving family that encouraged us to be our best selves despite our natural inclinations. Precocious but naive, I thought of myself as an ugly duckling—misunderstood in my youth but destined for a beauty and stature completely impossible for my loved ones to comprehend. I shudder to think what a monster I would have become in the modern child-rearing era. Gorged on a diet of grade inflation, constant praise and materialistic entitlement, I probably would have succumbed to a life of heedless self- indulgence.

    Perhaps, one day, we will say that the recession saved us from a parenting ethos that churns out ego-addled spoiled brats. And though it is too soon to tell if our economic free fall will cure America of its sense of economic privilege, it has made it much harder to get the money together to give our kids six-figure sweet-16 parties and plastic surgery for graduation presents, all in the name of "self esteem." And that's a good thing, because as Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell point out in their excellent book "The Narcissism Epidemic," released last week, we've built up the confidence of our kids, but in that process, we've created a generation of hot-house flowers puffed with a disproportionate sense of self-worth (the definition of narcissism) and without the resiliency skills they need when Mommy and Daddy can't fix something.

    Indeed, when Twenge addressed students at Southern Connecticut State University a couple weeks back, their generation's narcissism was taken as a given by her audience. The fact that nearly 10 percent of 20-somethings have already experienced symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, compared with just over 3 percent of the 65-and-over set? Not surprising. That 30 percent of college students agree with the statement: "If I show up to every class, I deserve at least a B"? Didn't get much of a rise either. When they're faced with the straight-out question—do you agree with this research, that you guys are the most narcissistic generation ever—there are uniform head nods and knowing grins to each other. "At the end of the day I love me and I don't think that's wrong," says Sharise Tucker, a 21-year-old senior at Southern Connecticut State, a self-professed narcissist. "I don't think it's a problem, having most people love themselves. I love me."

    But as Twenge goes on to illustrate, all that narcissism is a problem that can range from the discourteous—residential advisers at Southern lament students disregarding curfews, playing dance music until 3 a.m., demanding new room assignments at a moment's notice and failing to understand why professors won't let them make up an exam they were too hung over to take—to the disastrous—failed marriages, abusive working environments and billion-dollar Ponzi schemes. Seems that the flip side of all that confidence isn't prodigious success but antisocial behavior.

    Armed with a steady influx of trophies just for showing up, "I Am Special" coloring books and princess parties, it is hard for kids to understand why an abundance of ego might be bad for them. Hot off their own rebellions in the late '60s, my parents struggled to give me the freedom to be me while also teaching me generosity, compassion and humility. I didn't make it easy on them. I was the kind of kid who threatened to drink Drano if asked to load the dishwasher. "Don't get cocky, kid," was the response from my dad when I declared my grades too good for my behavior to be monitored. "Pretty girls are a dime a dozen," my mother would remind me when I came up with the brilliant idea that school was getting in the way of my social life. My mom would also trot out fables to keep me in check. Ever read the original ending to Cinderella? The evil stepsisters get their eyes plucked out by pigeons and end up beggars. But it worked, mostly, and "Don't believe your own bulls––t" became my mantra. Of course, I still hate to be told what to do, dislike following rules and will waste hours trying to get out of the simplest household task; but hey, I'm a work in progress.

    But no matter how you were raised, the handiest cure for narcissism used to be life. Whether through fate, circumstances or moral imperative, our culture kept hubris in check. Now, we encourage it. Pastors preach of a Jesus that wants us to be rich. The famously egocentric wide receiver Terrell Owens declares at
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    Apr 26, 2009 1:38 PM GMT
    ...declares at a press conference that being labeled selfish is fine with him. Donald Trump names everything he owns after himself and calls his detractors "losers." We live in a world where everyone can be a star—if only on YouTube. The general sense among students on that New Haven campus is that with the world being such a competitive, cutthroat place, they have to be narcissists. Well, you may need a supersize ego to win "America's Next Top Model" or to justify your multimillion dollar bonus. But last I checked, most of our lives don't require all that attitude. Treating the whole world as if it works for you doesn't suggest you're special, it means you're an ass. As an antidote to a skyrocketing self-worth, Twenge recommends humility, evaluating yourself more accurately, mindfulness and putting others first. Such values may seem quaint, maybe even self-defeating, to those of us who think we're special, but trust me: it gets easier with practice.

    With Sarah Kliff © 2009
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    Apr 26, 2009 2:22 PM GMT
    Nice posting Beaux. It has me thinking about what I was saying leading up to and during the economic crisis. Everyone was pointing fingers, trying to make it a question of political parties, a bad CEO, a company not doing its job etc... but when you step back and look at the whole picture you will see it is as much a cultural crisis as an economic one. We reward the nouveau riche with celebrity status and their own tacky show. Then we have program after program on how you can join this gaudy class. The self-made million is given a far higher status than the most brilliant scientists, engineers, and non-commercial artists. Only on the intellectual channels do you hear about amazing accomplishments of leaders such as the female president of Liberia.

    We are teaching our children to extract wealth from society rather than create wealth for society. While Charity is encouraged as that helps to inflate the ego, the moment we ask the question of what would be better for society rather than the individual we are labeled a socialist and given a rant of how socialism never works. I don't pretend to be a socialist and I have no problem with selfish motivation provided it contributes to healthier society and not a more fragmented one.

    The NY to Clt USAIR flight went down in the Hudson only a few days after a plane, piloted by a fraudulent money manager, crashed in Alabama. The portrait of the latter was one of many painted through a string of similar stories of people losing their live savings to someone willing to risk everything to be the next Donald Trump. Now contrast these social parasites to the 60 something pilot who saved every life on board that plane. All I could think about was how desperately our country needed a hero like him.
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    Apr 26, 2009 3:01 PM GMT
    I don't regard confidence as bad.

    However, it's the basic lack of seeing the big picture, in an I,I,I,me,me,me view of the world that I find disgusting.

    Chivalry can be dumb.
    Religion is even more stupid.

    Thinking of the common good, and of just general courtesy is something folks miss now, in their compartmentalized lives in large urban areas.

    The fat chick throws her McDonald's trash in the parking lots just feet from the trash can because she has the take that's Jose's job to pick up the trash from the lot. (Never mind that it makes the lot look like shit.)

    The cigarette smoker who flings a butt with total disregard of the litter, or the fire hazard.

    The driver who never signals and weaves all over the road.

    The guy with the the hip hop blasting at 0200.

    The folks who I called the "special people" who park in front of Wally World because they are so lazy as to not walk across the parking lot.

    Folks who can't put their weights away.

    I do know that it's narcissism but a sort rudeness that's borderline antagonistic but yet not. I guess it's defiance of civility more than narcissism or selfishness.

    I think it's directly resultant of everyone being told that they're 200'the winner, instead of 199'th loser. I think it resultant because folks are to timid to say 'you fatass, pick up your trash." We've been conditioned, especially in The South, to be non-confrontational, so I think folks "push back" in their bad behavior. I think also view themselves as "entitled" to that bad behavior. I'm not sure I'd call it narcissism as much as really bad behavior (albeit at a level that is of low intensity)

    There's no excuse for any of the behaviors I listed above.
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    Apr 26, 2009 3:18 PM GMT
    People whose sense of well-being depends on how they assess themselves are more likely to lie to themselves. If one's well being doesn't depend on how he evaluates himself, he's more likely to make honest self judgments.

    Well-being and self-esteem are not the same. Underneath these compensation tactics is the notion that, for example, a chubby person is less deserving of affection, so in order to maintain his well-being, he will have to pretend he's not fat.

    Instead of telling your fat, or skinny, or acne ravished friend that he is not what he is (or even worse -- that he's not supposed to suffer), it's better to address each problem one by one.
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    Apr 26, 2009 3:52 PM GMT
    One of my teachers reminds me all the time that, "We are each beautiful and perfect as we are and we could also use a little work."

    I think that speaks to all generations, not just my own.
  • calibro

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    Apr 26, 2009 4:08 PM GMT
    Hmm... correct me if I am wrong, but isn't today's financial crisis the result of the narcissism of an older generation? I think this article turns a blind to Madoff, Bush, etc... who all had their own narcissistic qualms that reduced our current state of being to a much lesser level.
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    Apr 26, 2009 4:14 PM GMT
    all very true- i feel affected myself. buddhist and taoist meditations help me to remember that i don't exist in any meaningful sense, but its a constant internal battle for me, leaping back and forth between a taoist emptiness, and utter narcissism- in terms of materialistic self-entitlement and a sense of ego-centrism, made all the worse by the fact that i'm aware of it and resent it. on the one hand i'm constantly trying to remain detached from desires, and on the other, i'm driven by them and by my deep rooted belief in being the most important thing in my waking life.
  • NickoftheNort...

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    Apr 26, 2009 4:20 PM GMT
    I haven't read Twenge and Campbell's The Narcissism Epidemic, but Kelley and Kliff's commentary on current generations suffers from an overdose of "back in the old days" valorization. Last I checked, Bernie Madoff is not a twenty-something fellow raised on this contemporary "me"ness. Nor is Donald Trump for that matter.

    ***
    Their accusations remind me of Laura Schlessinger and her claims that gay men were merely selfish men not taking on their God-given responsibility to financially support women. Members of a former generation seem intent on establishing why they were the best and how the world has fallen.
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    Apr 26, 2009 4:23 PM GMT
    Generation A finds fault in behavioral traits of Generation C, but disclaims all responsibility for instilling said traits.
    [roughly 10 years pass]
    Generation B finds fault in behavioral traits of Generation D, but disclaims all responsibility for instilling said traits.
    [roughly 10 years pass]
    Generation C finds fault in behavioral traits of Generation E, but disclaims all responsibility for instilling said traits.
    [roughly 10 years pass]
    Generation D finds fault in behavioral traits of Generation F, but disclaims all responsibility for instilling said traits.

    I can keep going if you'd like.
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    Apr 26, 2009 4:59 PM GMT
    jprichva saidWho are we kidding? Narcissism abounds right here, all over RJ.

    ---The ones who are oh so proud of telling us that they will always tell the exact truth, to anyone, regardless of the hurt they may inflict, because they are tough and uncompromising....
    ---The ones who talk about how picky they are and that's why they're single. Surely there must be one man out there who knows Sanskrit and loves to rock-climb, is blond, muscled (but not bulky), is 2-5 years younger, and wants to adopt kids, and lives in their city. And if he's not there, they'll wait, because they have standards, you see, and is that a bad thing?


    Maybe it's to be expected on a site devoted to the glorification of the male body, but sheeeesh.


    yup, that's actually me, exactly (well, both are a bit hyperbolized but its the right idea). though i don't see exactly how these two bullet points count as narcissism.
    there's nothing wrong (in my mind) with living one's life by a policy of completely candid honesty (there are of course times and places for tact but i'd rather openly speak my mind) and expecting the same honesty in turn- or with holding people to standards and expectations- or in having standards in dating and being unwilling to settle. if those things are narcissism, then wow, i'm way deeper in that shit than i thought lol
  • dannyboy1101

    Posts: 977

    Apr 26, 2009 5:19 PM GMT
    jprichva saidWho are we kidding? Narcissism abounds right here, all over RJ.

    ---The ones who are oh so proud of telling us that they will always tell the exact truth, to anyone, regardless of the hurt they may inflict, because they are tough and uncompromising and by the way, if their boyfriend tells them he'll be home at 6 and he walks in at 6:05 they'll dump him because the one thing they can't stand is LIARS.
    ---The ones who talk about how picky they are and that's why they're single. Surely there must be one man out there who knows Sanskrit and loves to rock-climb, is blond, muscled (but not bulky), is 2-5 years younger, and wants to adopt kids, and lives in their city. And if he's not there, they'll wait, because they have standards, you see, and is that a bad thing?
    ---The older gent whose look is something of an acquired taste, repeatedly telling us how nearly everyone flings themselves at him, while excoriating others for being fatties, faceless, smokers, and without profiles
    ---The folks who were so bullied themselves as young'uns that they are delighted to characterize fat people as disgusting, and so repelled by women that they refer to her genitals as a "wound", and her scent as "fish".

    Maybe it's to be expected on a site devoted to the glorification of the male body, but sheeeesh.


    Bravo
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    Apr 26, 2009 5:33 PM GMT
    jprichva saidWho are we kidding? Narcissism abounds right here, all over RJ...Maybe it's to be expected on a site devoted to the glorification of the male body.

    Well I'm shocked, shocked that narcissism is detected on RJ.
    It's practically the site's raison d'etre. Few of us are spending all those hours in the gym for our health alone.
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    Apr 26, 2009 5:38 PM GMT
    Guilty icon_redface.gif
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    Apr 26, 2009 5:54 PM GMT
    jprichva saidWho are we kidding? Narcissism abounds right here, all over RJ.

    ---The ones who are oh so proud of telling us that they will always tell the exact truth, to anyone, regardless of the hurt they may inflict, because they are tough and uncompromising and by the way, if their boyfriend tells them he'll be home at 6 and he walks in at 6:05 they'll dump him because the one thing they can't stand is LIARS.
    ---The ones who talk about how picky they are and that's why they're single. Surely there must be one man out there who knows Sanskrit and loves to rock-climb, is blond, muscled (but not bulky), is 2-5 years younger, and wants to adopt kids, and lives in their city. And if he's not there, they'll wait, because they have standards, you see, and is that a bad thing?
    ---The older gent whose look is something of an acquired taste, repeatedly telling us how nearly everyone flings themselves at him, while excoriating others for being fatties, faceless, smokers, and without profiles
    ---The folks who were so bullied themselves as young'uns that they are delighted to characterize fat people as disgusting, and so repelled by women that they refer to her genitals as a "wound", and her scent as "fish".

    Maybe it's to be expected on a site devoted to the glorification of the male body, but sheeeesh.


    Oh my!icon_lol.gif
  • bradsmith

    Posts: 175

    Apr 26, 2009 6:03 PM GMT
    Hmmm...I always thought the phrase was "What goes around, comes around"...or is it "What comes around, goes around"? Damn, I always forget. (grin)
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    Apr 26, 2009 7:45 PM GMT
    jprichva saidWho are we kidding? Narcissism abounds right here, all over RJ.

    ---The ones who are oh so proud of telling us that they will always tell the exact truth, to anyone, regardless of the hurt they may inflict, because they are tough and uncompromising and by the way, if their boyfriend tells them he'll be home at 6 and he walks in at 6:05 they'll dump him because the one thing they can't stand is LIARS.
    ---The ones who talk about how picky they are and that's why they're single. Surely there must be one man out there who knows Sanskrit and loves to rock-climb, is blond, muscled (but not bulky), is 2-5 years younger, and wants to adopt kids, and lives in their city. And if he's not there, they'll wait, because they have standards, you see, and is that a bad thing?
    ---The older gent whose look is something of an acquired taste, repeatedly telling us how nearly everyone flings themselves at him, while excoriating others for being fatties, faceless, smokers, and without profiles
    ---The folks who were so bullied themselves as young'uns that they are delighted to characterize fat people as disgusting, and so repelled by women that they refer to her genitals as a "wound", and her scent as "fish".

    Maybe it's to be expected on a site devoted to the glorification of the male body, but sheeeesh.


    A Rant I wish I had shouted first!!! <3
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    Apr 26, 2009 8:01 PM GMT
    I think that gay guys are affected the worst by the 'narcissism epidemic' - this lifelong perfectionism because many of us spend decades and decades just to find someone, we figure, what the hell is wrong with us? Not realizing that our options only whittle down to about 3-4% of the male population. With those odds, it simply doesn't matter what you accomplish, what you look like, where you live, or how much money you have. It's called a shot in hell. On that note, and this is a good thing, you might as well just be yourself and relax! Sure, the odds are against us big time when it comes to finding what we had hoped would be out there, but is that all there is? What about everything else in this world there is to discover? I don't think that's a bad thing.

    Gay men are lucky because we have time to think one of the most important questions out - parenting. If only straight people would do this! And that's where this gets tangled up. People call us self-centered for not having relationships (as I stated before, more than we want to admit that has more to do with a lack of selection than choice); the parenting thing is pretty much decided for us as well unless we are wealthy. If you are a single gay man on an average income, you won't be able to go through the organized surrogate route alone. Nor will many countries allow a single gay man to adopt a child now which was not the case even two years ago. So by appearances it looks like all we care about is ourselves, but again, our choices aren't that simple to rule out - I didn't choose to be gay. I didn't choose the low selection of other gay people that prevented me from finding any relationship of any kind over the past 13 years. I didn't choose for this situation to become what it is so not only can I not find a relationship but can't be a parent either. That's life and it sucks - and you have to get on with it. Otherwise you DO become self-absorbed because you put everything into appearances. You start looking at your life and thinking 'I don't have anything at all, I feel less-than no matter where I go, therefore I have to do something to appear to be better than everyone else'. So in comes all these gay guys who look, walk, talk and act like rich suburban women, do everything for themselves and how they look, yet at the same time alienating everyone else and putting them down in the process. I've seen this for years so I don't really know how to describe that - all I know is that the more I see that, the less I believe we even have a gay community anymore. Go to any gay bar, pride event, gay anything and the guys there are all thinking about themselves, looking at themselves, wondering what's in it for them, never wondering what someone else's name is; constantly asking what you do for a living so he can remind you that he is better off than you are...

    A few years of that and I came to a conclusion - whoever the hell came up with the term 'gay community' must be the same person who came up with the term 'hip hop community'. What community? It's a bunch of self-involved dickheads who only care when the subject is about them, and only when the topic has to do with how much better they are than everyone else. What kind of community is healthy and productive when everyone cares about money and things rather than the small percentage of others who are a part of this community that we certainly can't afford to alienate especially today?

    I've read two stories over the last week of 11-year-old boys who (I am guessing were probably gay contrary to what the parents say) believed that being dead was better than becoming a gay adult in this society. And - you can bet there are children who read our nasty comments towards each other and get the general feeling of what lies ahead for them - my guess is that more and more are saying they don't want any part of this. We forget that we were once 11, scared, and as much as we all deny that we were called names and pushed to the edge, many of us were, as are 11 year old boys today, who have nobody to go to and nobody who gives a shit, and unlike us, they now can read these comments and see that it gets no better in the adult gay community - every gay guy is out for himself and screw what anyone else is feeling or how bad he is hurting - it's all about me anyways. That has to change and quick. Not to be on a soapbox here but I distinctly remember that time of my life (early middle school years), realizing I was gay but also thinking that there was some light at the end of that someday. I graduated high school to come out to a gay community where the guys cared for maybe 10 minutes and then it's on to the next new guy and they never bothered to ask your name. Some community we've got.
  • nilbog

    Posts: 3

    Apr 26, 2009 8:45 PM GMT
    homeboy who started this thread about the follies of epidemic narcissism in younger (than his own) generations has ten pictures of himself on his page. currently, of the ten, ALL are shots of himself looking at himself in the mirror.

    ironic?
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    Apr 26, 2009 9:46 PM GMT
    FINALLY! I keep on telling people that my generation is like this, but most of the people I talk to about this are in their 50's and cant seem to imagine this idea. They think it's just my old-soul view. But indeed, my generation is a "give it to me, I want it now" generation that annoys the shit out of me!
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    Apr 26, 2009 10:09 PM GMT
    jprichva saidWho are we kidding? Narcissism abounds right here, all over RJ.

    ---The ones who are oh so proud of telling us that they will always tell the exact truth, to anyone, regardless of the hurt they may inflict, because they are tough and uncompromising and by the way, if their boyfriend tells them he'll be home at 6 and he walks in at 6:05 they'll dump him because the one thing they can't stand is LIARS.
    ---The ones who talk about how picky they are and that's why they're single. Surely there must be one man out there who knows Sanskrit and loves to rock-climb, is blond, muscled (but not bulky), is 2-5 years younger, and wants to adopt kids, and lives in their city. And if he's not there, they'll wait, because they have standards, you see, and is that a bad thing?
    ---The older gent whose look is something of an acquired taste, repeatedly telling us how nearly everyone flings themselves at him, while excoriating others for being fatties, faceless, smokers, and without profiles
    ---The folks who were so bullied themselves as young'uns that they are delighted to characterize fat people as disgusting, and so repelled by women that they refer to her genitals as a "wound", and her scent as "fish".

    Maybe it's to be expected on a site devoted to the glorification of the male body, but sheeeesh.


    Oh My Gawd........



    I love it!! icon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gif
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    Apr 27, 2009 3:30 PM GMT
    nilbog saidhomeboy who started this thread about the follies of epidemic narcissism in younger (than his own) generations has ten pictures of himself on his page. currently, of the ten, ALL are shots of himself looking at himself in the mirror.

    ironic?


    It was an article... icon_rolleyes.gif ... in NEWSWEEK.

    Perhaps Beaux should've put a disclaimer. "This post does not represent the opinions of the network" or something like that. icon_wink.gif
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    Apr 27, 2009 3:40 PM GMT
    The irony is that until you realise that you have limitations, life is pretty tough.

    Once you accept that you're not the best looking, most intelligent, healthiest and wealthiest person on the planet, you can start accepting yourself and getting on with your life.
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    Apr 27, 2009 3:42 PM GMT
    JprichvaMaybe it's to be expected on a site devoted to the glorification of the male body, but sheeeesh.


    Bingo. Still, nice eye-candy.
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    Apr 27, 2009 7:52 PM GMT
    DuluthMN saidI think that gay guys are affected the worst by the 'narcissism epidemic' - ... Some community we've got.


    I truncated your message not because I didn't like the contents but because it was long and I didn't wanna post it twice.

    That said, I think that we gays tend to see things in extremes instead of balancing our points of view.

    Every community - and I sometimes question if there really is a gay 'community' or not - has good and bad. Every community has positives and negatives. Every community is made up of people and by that sheer fact alone is imperfect.

    But I disagree that there's no hope. There are lots of guys out there who aren't on the wrong sides of their eyeballs, who look outward as much as they look inward. There are lots of great gay men out there who are well-adjusted, humble yet confident, happy, etc. To say that all gay men are shallow or narcissistic to a fault is an unfair and overly-broad generalization that stymies any hope of further discussion or progress.

    I do, however, understand completely your point of view. I don't mean to disparage it, just hopefully encourage you to see it a little bit differently.

    I am not buddy/hot-listed by shitloads of people on here because my pics are tame by standards and I am not a gym god, but I'm here and participating anyway. I've met a handful of great guys that I wouldn't have otherwise met had I said "oh that Jock site is for them, not for me" .. Ultimately, I'd rather have the genuine cameraderie/friendship of a few good guys than the meaningless adoration of the masses. That that is exactly what aligns with my reality is just a bonus. icon_smile.gif