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TEDxUGA: Freelancing & Narcissism in America

UGA students and staff alike got a chance to share their work and stories at this year’s TEDxUGA. Photo courtesy of user “TEDx OaklandUniversity” on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/117424147@N08/12488143864

This year’s TEDxUGA event unveiled a compilation of accomplished and distinguished speakers that shared their ideas on anything ranging from politics, work, art, and even to comedy. The theme of this years event was Spectrum; the poetic explanation of which being that when “prisms transform light into a spectacular display of colors; the ordinary becomes the extraordinary.” Continuing the analogy to different ideas, the event’s description claims that, “They challenge us, they change us—and when we hold them up to the light—they help us to see the world differently than before.” Several UGA faculty members and Students shared their ideas, what follows are highlights from two of the more salient talks…

Carolyn Crist on Freelancing: A recent trend in shifting American work habits

Carolyn Crist’s talk, a notable one for its insight on shifting American work methods, was  about the recent change from the normal nine to five work day to freelance work. Crist is currently a Freelance Journalist working for several publications including AARP, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Anesthesiology News, and many more. In her talk, she states that the typical American’s nine to five workday controls our lives and it prevents us from “playing” as well having meaningful experiences. She says that when humans are not tied to the traditional work week, it allows us to live in a stress-free environment that naturally fosters creativity and a more genuinely happy life. Freelancing, or, more simply, working on your own time has been increasingly preferred and practiced among millennials in the work force. This phenomenon is also why freelancing has been at the center of criticisms. Millennials are often criticized for their supposed laziness due to lack of adherence to the conventional work schedule.“work when you want” attitude, go figure, does not resonate as smoothly with older generations. In addition, millennials care about life opposed to the traditional work-life balance that most Americans follow. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it still contributes to the growing tension among generations as well as additional criticism of millennials valuing play over work.

A notable thing to remember, says Crist, is that freelancing is not available for all jobs and careers. Despite its recent popularity, freelancing, to many, is not a suitable substitute for the traditional American work week. Not every job/career can choose to work when and where they want. Overall, Carolyn Crist’s talk was both an interesting and a thoughtful analysis of Americans transitioning work culture. Freelancing is an interesting trend that will surely become increasingly prevalent as automation enters the workforce and new studies for worker productivity (think Google) permeate firms around the country.

W.Keith Campbell on narcissism’s role in modern society

Another interesting talk was W. Keith Campbell’s talk about narcissism’s role in modern society. Campbell is a Psychology professor at the University of Georgia who has written a multitude of scholarly articles on narcissism. In his talk he categorizes three types of Narcissism, the first being the classic grandiose narcissism. When we think of the typical narcissist we usually create a mental picture of this sort of narcissist, whom is defined as someone who feels superior to others and is charismatic, confident, and manipulative. The second type is vulnerable narcissism, which is defined as someone who feels superior to others but is also shy, having low self esteem and pervasive anxiety. The third type is narcissistic personality disorder,  by far the most severe form of narcissism. It is defined as someone who is obsessed with themselves as well as the idea of unlimited money, wealth, and/or fame. They typically lack empathy towards others and their disorder usually drastically affects their love and work life. In the talk, Campbell discusses that sometimes narcissism can be beneficial for starting relationships as well as gaining popularity as a politician or celebrity. Narcissists’ confidence and ability to be naturally outgoing are typically attractive to people and often yield a more successful person.

Campbell also discussed narcissism relating to people famed for their social media personas. Specifically, he talked about Kylie Jenner’s use of the social media site ‘Instagram’ as a means to promote herself using pictures and videos that are both revealing and excessively grandiose. Her narcissism is used to promote herself as well as her brand, and she is actually quite successful. She boasts an impressive 90 million followers on Instagram and, while I am not commending her actions, it is actually not a bad way to advertise. Campbell closes his talk by calling for a good balance of narcissism in society as well as withholding the ego from complete and total control over the decision-making process. While narcissism can be beneficial in small doses, it can also strain relationships both in the workplace and in social settings. Overall, this talk was insightful and offered an interesting view on narcissism that most people would not explore or discuss. Most people condemn narcissism as being toxic in one’s life and in society; it is always interesting to hear and alternative perspective on concepts such as this.

The TEDxUGA event was overall a great success, and it certainly met its goal of introducing and expanding new ideas. These two talks particularly stood out to me for there unique insight on ideas that are not generally discussed. Freelancing is a fairly new concept, yet it is already becoming a popular work method despite its lack of news coverage and surrounding conversation. In addition, narcissism is certainly not a subject that people talk about in a positive light, so it was quite interesting to hear Campbell’s alternative perspective on a concept like this. Hopefully, these ideas indeed do act as prisms as they continue to alter the world and provide a wide spectrum of influence and inspiration.

– Ian LaCroix is a freshman studying political science. He is a regular contributor to THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE.