Home > Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Social Commentary > The Ego Epidemic: Narcissism Is On the Rise

The Ego Epidemic: Narcissism Is On the Rise

There’s an interesting article on the rise of narcissism at the Mail Online, “The ego epidemic: How more and more of us women have an inflated sense of our own fabulousness. The author, Lucy Taylor, cites research by Jean M. Twenge, PhD and W. Keith Campbell, PhD in their book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. W. Keith Campbell, PhD has also researched and written about narcissism as it pertains to social media platforms. His work is cited in the post, Social Media Platforms, Narcissists, Borderlines and Histrionics: The Lure of Blogs, Facebook and MySpace.

In the Mail’s article, Ms Taylor shares the following research from Twenge and Campbell:

According to the American research, there has been a 67 per cent increase in it over the past two decades, mainly among women.

An estimated ten per cent of the population suffers from narcissism as a full-blown personality disorder.

The symptoms include: a grandiose sense of self-importance; the belief that he or she is special or unique and in some way better – either intellectually or physically – than others; a requirement for excessive admiration; a sense of entitlement, whether to fame, fortune, success and happiness or simply to special treatment; enviousness of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her; an inability to empathise; an inability to admit a mistake; and haughty behaviour or attitude.

What researchers have also identified, and are far more worried about, is what has been described as ‘normal’ narcissism – a cultural shift that has seen even non-narcissistic people seduced by the emphasis on material wealth, physical appearance and celebrity worship.

The researchers believe our culture brings out narcissistic behaviour in almost all of us.

They blame the internet (where ‘fame’ is a click away), reality television (where the lure of fame without talent is most prevalent), easy credit (which enables people to buy far beyond their ability to pay), celebrity worship, our highly consumerist, competitive and individualistic society, and a generation of indulgent parents who have raised their children to think they’re special, amazing and perfect.

According to Twenge, this focus on self-admiration has caused a cultural flight from reality to the land of grandiose fantasy.


We have phony rich people (who actually have massive mortgages and piles of debt), phony beauty (via plastic surgery), phony celebrities (via reality TV and YouTube), phony genius students (with grade inflation) and phony friends (with the social networking explosion).

Attention is a powerful reinforcement for individuals with narcissistic traits and/or anyone who craves validation and recognition. Many don’t seem to care if the attention they receive is for good or bad behavior or, worse yet, are unable to see how destructive and out of whack the behaviors for which they receive attention are. Attention is attention; it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s good or bad attention to these individuals. Often the most entitled and/or dysfunctional voices dominate.

Ms Taylor further explores the rise of narcissism and its effect on dating. Women with narcissistic traits often have an over-inflated sense of themselves that has very little to do with how attractive or successful they are in reality. Ms Taylor goes on to interview Margaret Medhurt who owns and runs a dating service in the UK. Ms Medhurt has noticed the increase of narcissism in female clients over the last 30 years and discusses how it impacts her business:

‘It used to be that most women who joined a dating agency had a pretty good idea of where they stood in the eligibility stakes,’ she said. ‘But in the past few years, I’ve noticed that there are a significant number of women who don’t.

‘They tend to be in their 30s, and there is a wide discrepancy between how they perceive themselves and how others see them.

‘They are often very plain, but see themselves as being absolutely fabulous, exceptional people.

‘They invariably reject every guy’s profile I send them. But if a guy rejects their profile, there is all hell to pay. There is disbelief. They are really saying: “I’m so fabulous. How dare he turn me down?”

‘In the past few years, I’ve noticed a real sense of entitlement among this small group of women. The idea that a guy might not find them as amazing as they find themselves doesn’t enter their head.

‘They often become indignant and angry towards me, demanding to know why a guy dared to turn them down. Most people simply accept the facts of the dating game: some people will find you attractive and others won’t, in the same way that you’ll be drawn to some but not others.

‘These women, however, are unable to get their heads around the fact that the rest of the world might not share the distorted, inflated view they have of themselves.’

Ms Taylor also interviews, David Baxter, a 40-year old management consultant who recently re-entered the dating pool after being married for 9 years. He states:

‘I’ve had three successive dates recently with ladies in the late 30s to early 40s age bracket that have left me dumbfounded.’

‘I’ve never come across such massive egos, such arrogance and lack of basic courtesy.

‘It was as if these particular dates were a forum for them to tell me how exceptional they were. One told me repeatedly how many young guys at the gym asked her out; another was very artificial.

‘You sensed that they absolutely worshipped themselves, though none of them was drop-dead gorgeous or had amazing personalities, jobs or anything else to set them apart and elevate themselves into some superior position.

‘I also thought it was quite telling that none of them had ever been married, engaged or had recently – or perhaps ever – been in a long-term relationship.

‘I got the feeling that these women were living in a Sex And The City-inspired fantasy world. I also sensed that nobody would ever be good enough for them.

For those who are familiar with these issues, the material discussed in the article is no big surprise. However, it’s worth the read and also worth noting when mainstream publications acknowledge these issues. Thanks to the reader who sent the link to the article.

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    November 30, 2010 at 8:37 am

    I have dated a bit and come across this also.

    If the world economy goes belly up like Ireland and Greece, these type of women will be in an interesting place – I won’t join them though.

  2. Ron
    October 27, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I loved the part of this article & some of the comments about the dating world. Before I met my beloved I remember well the dating scene. I was recently divorced & 39 so I dated women within a few years of that. Although I met a dated a few nice ones I have never seen such a collection of self centered people in my life…lol I could actually write a book on dating red flags. Made me realize that even though my first marriage didn’t work it how lucky I was to have had a nice wife.

    Many dates were first & last dates just because of the women I met. Many of them were extremely pretty but were awful people. Some dates consisted of the entire date having to listen just how big of a jerk their last 6 boyfriends were over the last year. I mean 6 in a year? Did you ever look in the mirror?..lol

    One kept talking about how she would get so mad that her boyfriend didn’t do all the things she wanted him to do. Upon further questioning he did housework? “Well yea but never the way I liked it”. Did he cook. “Well yea but I didn’t like the way he did that”. The list kept going on & on. I finally asked. “Well what things did you do for him”. After a somewhat puzzled look on her face she thought, & thought & finally said. “Well I did let him have sex with me”….SHEESH That was another first & only date…lol

    I had at one point decided to try the online dating thing. I made the mistake of listing my income which was pretty good at the time. Sure I got a lot of responses. Almost all of them wanted to meet at the finest dinning places etc. now I don’t have a problem with that per say but the first meeting at a $90 a plate place? BIG RED FLAG!!!..LOL

    So I decided to conduct a little experiment. I posted two ads. The descriptions went some thing like this.

    Add (1): 58yr old male/6ft 6in tall 154lbs/ Recently divorced/ Job Description: Executive consultant for a fortune 500 Co/ Income $180,000+ annually. I then cut a pasted a picture of a guy with a face that well only a mother could love.

    Add (2) 26yr old male/6ft 2in tall 234lb body builder/ Hazel eyes/ Auburn Hair/ Job Description: Management for a fast food resturant/ Income $22,000 annually. I then cut & paste a picture of a guy who was GREAT looking. The guy was actually a male model.

    Guess which ad got the most responses? Yep the ugly guy who made the big bucks. I got maybe 8 responses for the good looking guy who made a small income mostly from women slightly older. The rich guy had women from EVERY age responding. I decided to take the experiment a step farther. I basicly emailed them (as the rich guy) & said “hey if your not hot looking don’t respond”. Three sent nudes (I didn’t expect that one opps..lol) & probably 10 sent pics in bikinis, sexy Victorias Secret Stuff etc. For the guy who made very little money, I just asked for a picture period. I received mostly modest pictures from women who would range in age & apperence. Ya think the ones who responded to the rich guy had an agenda?…….HA!

  3. I am free
    September 27, 2010 at 6:02 am

    Cousin Dave :

    3. When my husbands father was sick in the hospital and “She” couldnt be there,I hugged her husband and she was upset enough to text me a weird message on my cell phone letting me know she was upset about it.lol

    Jen, one thing I’ve noticed over the years about BPD/NPD people is that they regard all human contact as merely a prelude to sex. The idea that two people who aren’t doing the nasty might want to hug each other is incomprehensible to them.

    Dave, I agree! Mine used to go spare at any interaction I had with any women friends. Now I understand what it was. Funnily though, it is now fair for me to assume that she was sleeping with all her men friends…lol

  4. Cousin Dave
    September 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    3. When my husbands father was sick in the hospital and “She” couldnt be there,I hugged her husband and she was upset enough to text me a weird message on my cell phone letting me know she was upset about it.lol

    Jen, one thing I’ve noticed over the years about BPD/NPD people is that they regard all human contact as merely a prelude to sex. The idea that two people who aren’t doing the nasty might want to hug each other is incomprehensible to them.

  5. Horatio
    September 20, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Therapists can also ‘miss’ NPD because they know that therapy cannot help these people. It is an extreme challenge just to get someone with NPD to come to therapy sessions in the first place, and when they do the therapist has to spend half the session telling them how wonderful they are…because if they don’t, the NPD person will stop coming to sessions, which means the therapist is short one patient.

    • never again
      September 20, 2010 at 7:09 pm

      Bang on. My NPD had to attend counselling sessions to deal with MY “abuse” of her (I made the mistake of calling her a “frigid shrew” once. That’s the only truly abusive thing she could point to. I was wrong, and I admit it. She’s not a frigid shrew. She’s a frigid, narcissistic shrew.)

      The last telephone conversation I had with her, I was trying to convince her to seek some real help so we could try to reconcile. She categorically stated that she was only in counselling becuase of what I did to her, and that she is “PERFECT”.

    • September 20, 2010 at 8:01 pm

      I assume the other half of the session is devoted to assuring the PD person that they’re “not to blame” otherwise, the PD would likely be off therapist shopping again.

  6. TheGirlInside
    September 20, 2010 at 12:28 am

    from the article linked by Gypsy Geek: “At its roots, narcissism is voracious.”

    Like trying to fill an endless pit / black hole / the void inside…

  7. September 19, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    From Wikipedia: Münchausen syndrome.

  8. September 19, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    By far the bizzarest/weirdest media attention craving borderline-narcissist ever:

    The only ‘good’ thing is she did it to herself and not to another, though she implicated a make-believe person. I read in a few other articles of the psychological assessment of this insane woman. Extreme narcissism linked with borderline traits indeed!And projecting her own ‘dark’ side into a corporealized form as the ‘attacker.’ This case is like a literal show of what takes place in an abstract form with projection, blame shifting and lies in relations that the partner faces with such complicated people.

    How far would one go to get attention or show their ‘greatness’ as this girl had tried to? So mind blowing!

    • never again
      September 19, 2010 at 7:50 pm

      GG, here’s another one:http://breastcancer.about.com/b/2010/08/09/kirilow-faked-breast-cancer-on-facebook-now-in-custody.htm Didn’t go to the extreme of harming herself, but managed to convince thousands of people that she had cancer, and to donate money to her.

      I read another account of this where she admitted that she did it to try to get attention from her parents. From that perspective, at least she’s an honest narcissist. :rolleyes:

      • September 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm

        Thanks, Never Again for that story and
        Wow! Amazing!

        While there is a name (forgot – something that starts with ‘Manchu-something) for make-believe diseases, what’s mind blowing in these particular cases is the obvious narc-traits. Making oneself into a ‘victim’ to get pity, attention yet fully cognizant of fooling others. Not much different in nature but an extreme extreme case of the ‘ego epidemic’ and the Cluster B habit of playing victim/ fake rescue-me tactic/ fleecing off kind folks/ covert bullying/ displaying one’s wounds as claim checks to pity and spotlights. Weird forms of ‘rescue me (BPD) to look at me! (NPD)’ see-saw combos. Sinister. Absolutely chillingly sinister.

        And the irony is at the end, we’ll see how many people even from the therapy world perhaps (Dr. T and other sensible ones being the exceptions) will try to sympathize and empathize and ultimately reward these mentally twisted people terming it all as ‘desperate cries for help.’ Hrrmph! How about figuring out what makes some women good and kind and sensible instead….those who are the silent givers and doers.

    • September 21, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      Re: the acid lady.


      Why doesn’t the statement “When I realized it wasn’t killing me, I thought maybe this was the answer to all my problems, to have a completely different face.” surprise me?

  9. ron
    September 16, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Old Guy :My wife often admits to a mistake.
    Unfortunately, it hapens to be me, as she has told me over … and over …. and over …and over …

    Rim Shot. I thought Henny and Rodney had passed on.

  10. D
    September 16, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Narcissism finds a home in both men and women, but to my mind the problem is that when people rightly call out male narcissism, everyone nods their head in agreement and condemn, i.e.: “yup. He’s an a$$h*le”.

    But when a women reads the “I am so fabulous” article that Dr. T cites, and writes in its comments (as one reader did) the following:

    “I am a successful, confident, attractive 53-year-old woman who would enjoy the companionship of a successful, confident attractive man (regardless of his age).

    “If and when I find a man secure enough not to be threatened by who I am and what I have achieved, to whom I am attracted (and who is likewise attracted to me), and with whom I share interests and values, I will happily build a mutually respectful and loving relationship.

    “Until then, I am contentedly living a full, rewarding and exciting life on my own.
    “- Susan Macaulay, Dubai, UAE, 15/9/2009”

    … the best response we can muster up listening to this self-engrossed garbage is silence, and much more often we’ll be treated to nods of praise, “that’s a strong, liberated woman.”

    No, that is a woman engrossed in the very worst behavior of narcissistic men and more generally and more accurately: narcissistic people.

    This is a gender issue on account of the double-standard. Somewhere along the line we do need to be sure that we don’t lose our way. Ultimately this is about the fact that, as the bumper sticker says, “mean people suck”, and they suck in both the male and female varieties.

    Those of us who aren’t mean: we need to band together. We have a common interest, male and female alike. Giving anyone a free pass for mean, narcissistic or a$$h*le for any arbitrary reason (i.e.: gender, class, etc) weakens all of us.

    • shrink4men
      September 16, 2010 at 5:41 pm


    • Mellaril
      September 16, 2010 at 6:50 pm

      I’ve heard similar things several times over the years. If you’re not a Cluster B, it’s not too hard to spot. I usually responded with silence but since I’ve learned a lot about Cluster Bs, maybe the next time I’ll try,

      “So how old were you when your mother abandoned you?”

    • Jen
      September 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm

      agree D. Mean people can just ruin your whole day. And you have to expend so much mental energy on them too to keep from just saying you know what? Go to hell you bag of douche.

  11. geronimo
    September 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    My ex would apologize fairly often, but it would always, always, always go like this:

    “Yes, I am sorry I busted your lip. But you really shouldn’t raise your voice to me.”

    No apology of hers was not followed by a “but you” clause.

    • Aapeli
      September 22, 2010 at 3:02 am

      Been there, heard that… my “girlfriend” really does not want to apologise even when it is blatantly obvious that she should, and if I manage to get an apology out of her by demanding it, it comes with an insult of some sort. So it is not an apology. Nowadays I give the exact value of zero to her apologies. I just feel I cannot trust her to be genuinely sorry.

      Also, way too often I found myself apologising after we had had an argument, even when it was her who started yelling and screaming and being unfair in general. I have been too kind to her by apologising so much. If she starts a fight then she should apologise. If she starts yelling at me for using “the wrong” spoon, she is the one who should apologise, FFS…

      • TheGirlInside
        September 27, 2010 at 1:11 am


        In the long run, an apology doesn’t really mean much anyway without coinciding change in behavior…so while it’s hard to want that apology and never get one, or get an insincere one…or even should you manage to get a seemingly sincere “I’m sorry for hurting you,” from an abuser, it doesn’t mean squat if her behavior doesn’t actually change / she doesn’t actually make true amends.

  12. never again
    September 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Dr. T, this is a question that’s been eating at me since I left my NPD. The last few months of our marriage, I finally got her to seriously attend marital counselling (all the previous attempts were abandoned, because there was nothing wrong with her).

    I knew nothing about NPD and only learned about it after I left her, but anyone I’ve talked to who does know about NPD has picked up on it immediately when I tell them the crap I went through.

    But this psychologist missed it – or seemed to, because she just focussed on my anger, saying that, while I had every right to be angry, I had to “learn to express it differently”. Never a word said about my wife’s conduct, never a suggestion to me that there was more to this than her withdrawal from me, never any sort of warning that I was in over my head. Just my anger. Consequently, my NPD never had to make any changes in our relationship, which was why I finally left, because I just couldn’t take it any more.

    So, my question to you is, how easy is it for a psychologist to pick up on this sort of thing in a he said/she said situation like marital counselling?

    I guess I just would have liked some validation from the psychologist, instead of being made to feel (again) like it was all my fault.

    • Mr. E
      September 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm

      Word on the street is that marriage counsellors regularly have the wool pulled over their eyes by these bullies.

      So, it really sucks that it happened to you, and you’re not alone in the experience.

    • jp
      September 16, 2010 at 5:45 pm

      never again,

      You must have heard the joke: “Q: What do you call the guy who finished last in his class in medical school? A: Doctor”

      There are crappy shrinks just like there are crappy car mechanics. Or she might have a gender bias, or her own experience-based issues distorting the lens through which she viewed you two. Too many variables to know for sure.

      My ex and I had an excellent marriage therapist who retired years ago, shortly before we split. The first time we went to see her together I was pleasantly surprised to find her sticking up for me, so deeply had the mythology of my horribleness taken root.


      • never again
        September 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm

        jp, the first counsellor we went to, 6 months after she suddenly withdrew from me – emotionally and physically, told me that I had to get her to respect me. At that point, the only thing my NPD had to complain about was that I “only did 70% of the housework”. :rolleyes:

        So, I started to speak up, and made it clear that I wasn’t just going to settle for a sex-less marriage.

        Well, that was the opportunity she was looking for. No longer did she not have an excuse for her behaviour. Now, because I was speaking up, my “anger” became her excuse. And for the next 3 years, that was her way of dealing with it.

        It got to the point where she insisted I had anger management issues, and I finally went to a psychiatrist for a full assessment. The psychiatrist’s considered opinion – very succinct (and this is a direct quote) – “You don’t have an anger management problem. You have a marital problem.”

        Of course, my NPD refused to accept this, and things just continued to spiral into oblivion.

        • jp
          September 16, 2010 at 11:39 pm

          Interesting…and familiar.

          I went for a full neurological workup because she felt I always either a) forgot everything important we talked about…usually me agreeing to some distortion she was gaslighting me with in order to appease her, something I never really believed, or b) refused to agree with her distortion. Ex was convinced I must have ADD. Tests showed nothing, so she sent me to a shrink who said I MIGHT have some mild depression (no wonder) and he put me on an anti-depressant. From that point on I became the “patient” in the relationship and any issues I raised were met with this response from her: “have you been forgetting to take your meds?” Gross.

          At what point in the relationship did she initiate the pull-away?


          • never again
            September 17, 2010 at 12:46 pm

            JP – Ten months after we were married – long enough to accumulate a house in the country, 3 horses and two investment properties. When I left, I was fighting for survival, and just gave it all up. It wasn’t completely paid for but, conservatively, I think those 10 months of marriage cost me about $1/2 million.

            I stayed for almost 4 more years, because I’d have given anything to have the woman I married back – beautiful, sexy, smart, body of a cheerleader and insatiable.

            Now, I think I’ll just go get a big “S” – for sucker, tattooed on my forehead.

        • Robdog
          September 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm

          Geezz Never Again, that sounds like my house. Only difference is my wife adds the, “Well I’m not perfect, like you,” line to my anger issues in her excuses.

          • September 24, 2010 at 4:53 pm

            “Well I’m not perfect, like you,”

            Another been there, heard that.

            When I was first getting to know my wife years ago, she’d often tell me I was “perfect”.

            In retrospect, I realize she meant “the perfect sap” but at the time, I’d just assure her I wasn’t.

            As the years progressed, I’d hear the “you act like you’re perfect”, which I never heard from anyone else … the “you think your perfect”, which I never have … or at least never since my teenage years … and the old intended end to the argument … she started … that “I’m not perfect like you” … along with the “You’re never wrong”, “you always win the argument because you speak better than me” … or more realistically had a response to her irrational ravings about me … and whatever other “poor, poor pitiful poorly treated me” lines she can come up with.

            • never again
              September 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm

              After I left her, while I was still in the obsession stage, I followed a thread detailing our marital trials and tribulations that she’d started on a horse board, so she could cry the blues to her horsey friends. Even after I left her, she still described me as “99% wonderful” The reason that I didn’t get 100% was that I didn’t accept a sexless marriage, which would have clearly put me in my true place as her servant.

              The worst thing about it was, all her on-line horse friends were so narcissistic themselves that they encouraged her! They said that if I left her, then I was worthless, and that she was better off without me!

              Not one of them could read between the lines to see that just MAYBE I wasn’t the problem.

              Funniest thing was, another one was relating her own problems with her “wonderful” husband, only her complaint was that he didn’t want to have sex with her. Guess what – she got the same response – “Throw the bum out!”

              They really, truly are NEVER wrong.

            • September 26, 2010 at 8:03 pm

              “Not one of them could read between the lines to see that just MAYBE I wasn’t the problem.”

              I rather doubt any of them would be interested in doing so.

              Then again, if they did, they likely wouldn’t be her “friend” for too long.

    • Jen
      September 17, 2010 at 12:03 pm

      I have heard the same thing all over the internet about this never. They say so many counselors miss personality disorders unless the PD spouse is a total whack job. The counselor could focus on your anger issues because that was the easy way out. Not that not learning how to express anger in better ways is bad, but honestly not even looking at your wife to critique was a total cop out for your tharapist.

      But i understand how it feels being blamed for your reactions to a PD person.Of corse your going to get angry because you feel like your going nutts dealing with it.

  13. ozymandias
    September 15, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    “Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, ‘learn from them’”

    Ha ha- how can you learn from mistakes if you don’t make any?

    • shrink4men
      September 15, 2010 at 9:48 pm

      “Being a narcissist means never having to say you’re sorry.” (not a quote from “Love Story”)

      • September 15, 2010 at 11:59 pm

        Haha! Thanks, T.

        @ Ozy – It should read perhaps -‘learn from your mistakes’, ‘take responsibility for your own mess’ and ‘STOP blaming your father/mother/boyfriend/girlfriend/dog/cat’ for your self-inflicted misery and princess-distress.’

        Dr. T – about online narcissism, I sometimes wish all the comuputer geeks of the world would decide to go on strike and stop the internet from working for a day – or until all the narcs pleaded for mercy. Then we’d see if the world can run without the geeks who invented the computer, the printing press, the camera or various infrastructures or it could run with the whining/nagging/manipulation of the narcs who use all these inventions and yet torture the rational people of the world.

        • Jen
          September 16, 2010 at 11:45 am

          You mean I cant even blame my cat! Crap I need to find another scapegoat asap!

          • September 16, 2010 at 12:20 pm

            Cats are likely the biggest narcs of all.

            • Aapeli
              September 22, 2010 at 2:52 am

              Cats are independent but I don’t think that means they have the NPD. I have never experienced a cat cause me the kind of damage my “girlfriend” has caused me. A cat may scratch my hand when I try to pick it up, but that’s pretty mild compared to what the “girlfriend” has done. I think the cat is in fact just being genuinely afraid that something bad will happen to it so it will try to protect itself. But when the “girlfriend” hits me in the head with a metallic pipe for me sitting in a sofa then I don’t think she is protecting herself at all, it’s something totally different.

    • September 16, 2010 at 12:12 pm

      My wife often admits to a mistake.

      Unfortunately, it hapens to be me, as she has told me over … and over …. and over …and over …


      • Jen
        September 17, 2010 at 11:55 am

        thats horrible old guy. Im sorry.

        • September 20, 2010 at 10:11 am

          Thanks, Jen.

          Actually, this was more an attempt at humour than anything else. It has been a long time since I paid attention to any of my wife’s “opinions” about me.

          I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard what a “mistake” they were … and not the only one who has marvelled hearing this from someone who never seems to be able to get their own act together or shows any indication of being able to survive on their own without the support of “mistakes” such as we.

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