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Are You Afraid Of The Dark?

In her short philosophical fiction, 'The One Who Walk Away From Omelas', the American writer Ursula K. Le Guin emphasised that modern society's romanticised sense of suffering is fascinating, while that of bliss is dull. This might appear to be the beginning of a dark comedy show, but is rather a reality. Misery has become the new fun, and other people's suffering has become a new high.

The Dark Triad

'Personality' refers to individual variations in various ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. Some elements of personality are brilliant, while others are dark. The term 'Dark Triad' was coined with the help of two intellectuals, namely Delroy Paulhus and Kevin Williams, and describes a diabolical mixture of three distinct yet interconnected negative personality types, namely, Narcissism, Psychopathy and Machiavellianism. Traditionally, psychologists have defined 'Dark Triad' traits by evaluating these unique personality types independently. The notion of Narcissism is inspired from the Greek tale of Narcissus, a hunter who perished after falling in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. To some extent, it is human nature to be pretentious and proud. It is neither 'good' nor 'bad,' but rather relies on the circumstances and outcomes being judged. There is a distinction to be made between healthy narcissism, being self-absorbed and demanding, and having a pathological mental condition such as narcissistic personality disorder. To be in the company of these personality traits is more a nuisance than a threat, but if too sentimental, it can impair a person's or a team’s morale and sense of serenity without them even realising it. Additionally, over the last three decades, social media, bloggers, and self-help authors have arbitrarily applied the name "narcissism" to the self-serving and all domestic abusers.

Whereas, the trait of 'Psychopathy', sometimes considered synonymous with sociopathy, is believed to be a neuropsychiatric disorder marked by inadequate emotional reactions, lack of empathy, and poor behavioural controls, which frequently results in persistent antisocial deviance and illicit behaviour. Individuals with high levels of psychopathy do not regard the wellbeing of others. They will not abstain from abusing other people or breaching the ethical codes if they are not in line with their own goals or wishes. In reality, their acceptance of moral principles is a mirage. Despite the fact that no psychiatric or psychological entity has sanctioned the term "psychopathy," evaluations of psychopathic features are extensively being used in criminal justice settings in several countries and can have serious ramifications for people.

Moreover, 'Machiavellianism', which is derived from a reference to the notorious 'Niccolò Machiavelli', refers to a type of personality trait in psychology in which the individual is so fixated on their own objectives that they will manipulate, cheat, and exploit others in order to achieve their desires. For them, victory and survival may be justified by any means, including those deemed immoral and cruel.

People inheriting these traits are often typically seen as braggarts, cheats, manipulators, sadists, trolls, bullies, or downright aggressors. Sadly, these personalities appear to be rather popular and are constantly reinforced in our culture as well.

The effects of the Dark Triad on teenagers

The Dark Triad of personality has received a lot of attention in adult studies during the last decade. Yet, little is known regarding the significance of these maladaptive personality traits in adolescence. Adolescence is a time when long-term goals must be established. Even if the here and now is exciting, kids must make decisions that will have far-reaching consequences for their future. It is a sensitive period for them, and they are frequently the single victim of cyberbullying and cyber aggression whose possible consequences are emotional and psychological problems, such as depression, alexithymia, sleeplessness, somatic symptoms, drug use, depression, avoidance, and fear. It is believed that 1–44 percent of the population engages in cyberbullying. Perpetrators frequently exhibit behavioural issues, as well as hyperactivity and substance addiction. Also, anonymity implies lower costs, which has been linked to an increase in cyberbullying. Furthermore, dealing with people who have dark personality traits at this period exposes their vulnerable states of still evolving minds to manipulation, deceit, and harm.

Are Anti-Heroes really appealing to people who have Dark Traits?

Rick Sanchez from Rick & Morty, like Bojack Horseman, Sherlock Holmes, and the Joker, is a morally ambiguous figure who isn't clearly good or bad. There is a widely held belief, backed up by research, that people's media preferences generally reveal a lot about their personality traits, as well as their acceptance that their dream lives are more likely to reflect their genuine personalities than to be explorations of what it might be like to be someone else. To put this to the test, a survey was conducted in which people, especially teenagers, were asked how often they watched antihero narratives, how much they enjoyed them, how much they truly enjoyed it when these mischief-makers acted for revenge or personal gain, and how much they relished it when these characters acted for the sake of revolution or helping society. In their results, they observed that more frequent viewing of antihero stories was most significantly connected to general aggression. Overall enjoyment of these stories or appreciation of helpful motives in antihero stories was unrelated to any of the antisocial characteristics, whereas liking antiheroes motivated by vengeance or personal gain was significantly related to Machiavellianism and aggressiveness. Moreover, perceived likeness to an antihero was linked to aggression and psychopathy. So, while Rick may not have been as relatable to folks with typically decent views toward life, i.e. light personalities, he may have rang true for the majority of people with these dark tendencies.

Impacts of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic provided researchers with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study how a physical danger (the virus) impacts individuals and how they cope with it. People have been somewhat partially locked away in their homes for the past two years, attempting to connect with themselves and others. These attempts have brought out a lot of underlying emotions and thoughts. Given that COVID-19 conjures dangers to the individual and the collective, the majority of people went off the radar and began looking out for themselves rather than the society or its welfare. This social liberation provided them with ample time to love themselves, which in some people was found to be a bit too much. People have begun to disregard what other people care about, in order to devote their whole attention to what they care about, which isn't as horrible, but comes at the expense of no feeling of duty or concern for the suffering of others in lieu of one's own safety. Turning decent enough people into such megalomaniacs that it's hard to differentiate between actual dark personalities and turned dark personalities.

Of course, there are days when we all feel compelled to block out other people and focus only on ourselves. This is especially true when we see that those who cheat, deceive, and exploit others are getting an advantage. This, however, is not always the case. Individuals have the ability to grow and change regardless of where they fall on these personality dimensions. The desire to change, on the other hand, pulls you closer to what you believe would be a meaningful existence.

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