I should have added that being self-absorbed is something that we all have to work very hard to drive away in the modern age. Perhaps one might have even said that my rant was a little self-absorbed (though I'm not sure that discussing self-absorbed people is a great way to make dinner conversation).
Marketing is huge which results in materialism. More and more you hear about companies creating jobs that cater to the millennium generation. Most universities are headed towards institutionalizing many student concerns; MIT even had a dean of alcohol at some point. Of course, some of that is good, but I wish there were a message that counterbalances the former message. That we should embrace challenges and work out our own solutions and perhaps even come to see the silver lining of the things we complain about. By far the worse thing is how competitive our world has become and it feels like we must constantly be building and tweaking our market brand. That is understandable, but what concerns me is all the talk of attaining the perfect job or living in the best city. The "please me first" attitude makes me uncomfortable.
I think the best way to keep yourself from being self-absorbed is to work with other people in a non-profit driven activity. Like tutoring. Many people who apply for faculty jobs don't really want to teach, but I wouldn't be able to do research all day anyways and teaching is an excellent way to complement research. Let's stop the trend of everyone marketing to each other. This is no way to live.