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Are Selfies Narcisstic?

In: Social Issues

Submitted By simranpsetty
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Introduction: Flash of Facts
Only those living under a rock will be wondering what ‘selfie’ means. It is essentially a photograph of oneself taken by them self. It’s a simple trend that has infiltrated almost every corner of the social media world: people are holding their smart phone out at arm’s length, making a variety of faces—from the classic smile or serious face, to the more comedic duck face or sticking out one’s tongue– snapping a photo and then uploading it to social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. In November 2013, the word "selfie" was announced as being the "word of the year" by the Oxford English Dictionary. The appeal of selfies comes from how simple they are to create and share, and the control they give self-photographers over how they present themselves.
So what is the hue and cry about this apparently harmless activity of clicking one’s own pictures? This is where an ancient Greek mythology helps us in understanding the etymology of the word ‘narcissist’ and the psychological state of a narcissist.
It centres on a very handsome young man called Narcissus. So attractive was this man that all the girls fell in love with him. He was aware of his charms and this made him arrogant and proud. Despite the efforts of the ladies to win his affections he ignored their overtures. One day as Narcissus was walking through the forest he stumbled upon a clear pool of water. As he knelt to drink - for he was very thirsty- the loveliest sight that had ever appeared captivated his attention. He immediately fell in love. So great was his attraction that he could not leave the pool and his appetite vanished. Before long his health deteriorated and he began to fade. In the end he died staring at this image in the pool. Narcissus experienced unrequited love as he had fallen in love with his own reflection!
Narcissism i.e.; being obsessed with receiving recognition and gratification from ones looks, vanity and in an egotistical manner is becoming a big problem in our digital age. Taking selfies is considered selfishness of the most superficial kind as it’s not about just oneself but how they ‘look’. Posting pictures of oneself online invites judgement based on appearance alone. Because of this, one’s self worth or happiness is boosted by the number of ‘likes’ you receive or is destroyed by the opposite- a resounding silence.

A Close-up of the issue
Its common sight to now see not only young adults but also couples, middle aged ladies and even professionals stop in the middle of the street to click a selfie. There is no historical building behind them, no beautiful landscape, no real reason to take a picture of themselves other than the fact that they can reverse the camera on the phone, gaze at their own visage, and then share it on social media so the rest of the world can gaze upon it as well. When you ponder over this absurd behaviour we realize that there is something “off” about this picture.
It is easy to write-off this modern fad as merely annoying, but the mental disorder aspect is very apparent. What starts with an innocent ‘selfie’ habit could be an indication that these self-obsessed smart phone users are really feeling bad inside – a perpetually needy, anxious, depressed, and narcissistic person who constantly requires attention of others to fill-in an emotional vacuum carved out by too much time spent exposed to social media.
The textbook definition of narcissism is fairly harmless, described as, “extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.” Similarly selfies create a chronic self-consciousness and a false sense of self-confidence. They trigger attributes of self-obsession or attention seeking social dependence that raises the problem of narcissism.
Historically, ever since photography was invented making an image was an act that required not just prior planning but also a special occasion . People considered taking a picture as something removed from ordinary life — images possessed sacred properties, special auras and powers. Taking photographs required expensive machinery and skill. But now with the advancement in technology, we no longer think of photographs as a conscious work of creation. Photographs have become like talking. The rarity of imagery once made it a separate part of life. Now it's just life. It is just part of the day.
Though actual diagnosis of narcissism is quite rare, with the passing of time a ‘subclinical narcissism’ has emerged. It’s the co-worker who loves to talk about herself, the friend at the cocktail party who entertains a crowd with his self-absorbed stories, the sibling that consistently shows up empty-handed at holidays. They are people who channel their love of themselves into a kind of infectious self-confidence, leading them to believe that it’s their world and everyone else is living in it.
The posting of selfies on social media represents a narcissistic gesture wherein people are looking to draw attention to themselves. Internet and smart phones are the culprits for the emergence of this new phenomenon. Those who are addicted to selfies are actually addicted to the number of likes they receive, which defines their self worth and attractiveness. But why are these people interested in posting these selfies online where thousands of people can see them? The answer to this is that these selfies are self-portraits that encourage a false thinking of superiority as these people believe that they will be socially accepted only by their appearance and not by their work or communication with people.
Photos are powerful, emotional messages and controlling these photos has never been easier. Various photo apps help users to manipulate photos in such a way to bring an enhanced image which the user feels will highlight certain features, hide certain aspects or create an entirely different self-image that can impress the online world. The motives behind taking selfies are image crafting, wherein they want people to see them differently from who they really are; jealousy inducing; attention craving and to fight loneliness by seeking approval from pseudo friends who are online. Sometimes these selfie takers are blind to their own intentions behind posting them.
What is bizarre is even political leaders, who are supposed to know that they do have their entire nation’s approval when they are democratically elected as the representative of their nation, also take selfies! A fine example would be when President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-took a selfie at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service. This definitely questions when and where it’s appropriate to take a photo of yourself.
God’s words as found in the Bible speak of a definite displeasure with those who continuously display selfish tendencies. Time and time again He instructs to “humble yourselves” (James 4:10), to avoid “selfish ambitions” (Galatians 5:20) and to “look out…for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

The topic of narcissism is so widespread that now most people correctly match it with a pattern of behaviour that include grandiosity, an infinite need for admiration and a lack of empathy. What no one understands is how every level of severity in this condition actually stems from the fear or shame of being ordinary. The cultural phenomenon of posting images of ourselves is exactly the kind of pointless indulgence that blocks us from thinking and acting in ways that benefits someone other than our ownselves.

Along these lines, yet another concern surrounding selfies is the extent to which the images can be altered and influenced to project a person’s ideal identity instead of his or her real identity. Selfies fall in line with the act of projection—projecting one’s image into cyberspace for the observation of others, rather than practicing self-love for the sake of oneself. Instead of being okay with who we are no matter what, we strive to find the right picture with all the perfect details. The more ‘likes’ we get on social media sites the happier we feel. This is definitely not a sustainable way of thinking. Selfies are a predictable extension of our chronic turning from living spirit into a false self-processed pretense.

The increased participants within the realm of “selfies” suggests that those partaking in the cultural phenomenon are driving increasing theories that the Millennial generation is more narcissistic than all previous generations .The selfie Ellen DeGeneres took at the 2014 Academy Awards, with other celebrities including Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, and Brad Pitt, among others has received atleast 2 million likes and 3.3 million retweets. Thanks to which 2014 has been crowned the “Year of the Selfie”. This confirms something we’ve always known: that we care more about ourselves than anything else.

Through the Philosophical lens
Plato ties narcissism—or the love of one’s own, broadly understood—to the desire for honour. Were Plato alive today, he would be intrigued by the internet as a context of its own, a separate world within which we go about our business and which shapes us as we shape it.
The most basic narcissistic pleasure comes from looking at oneself. We all have this impulse, but by organizing their whole lives around it narcissists show us its essential tendency. As Ovid tells it in Metamorphoses, Narcissus was unhappy. Staring into a pond, the young man fell in love with his own reflection. Every time he touched it, it would disappear. Every time he spoke to it, it would reply silently. Locked in this cage of impossible desire, Narcissus withered away. The narcissist can never be satisfied by looking at his own reflection. Just like how Narcissus needed someone to love him back, the selfie takers too crave love from outsiders by posting pictures of themselves online and waiting for validation from them.
In his book 'Culture of Narcissism' Christopher Larsch describes the Narcissistic personality like this; ' the Narcissist can function in the everyday world - and is often very charming. However, his devaluation of others, together with a lack of curiosity about them impoverishes personal life. With little capacity for detachment the Narcissist must depend on others for constant infusions of approval and admiration. At the same time his fear of emotional dependence, together with manipulative, exploitive approaches to personal relations makes these relations bland, superficial and deeply unsatisfying.’
An analysis of selfie must also include the analysis of one’s True Self.
So we ask ourselves “what” we are. What we are is pretty much what’s written on our Passports. It is the outer shell. Below the shell of what we are lies the core of who we are. This core is an unseen entity shaped by memory, our collective passions and fears, idiosyncrasies, and those culminating facets of our selves that define us. Yet even this is not who we truly are, deeper down. The true Self is basically an unseen entity that never itself moves, yet expresses and reveals itself through thought and deed.
Enter in the recent selfie phenomenon — voted the 2013 word of the year. No doubt there is much psychology (some take selfies for want of acceptance) and sociology involved (taking such photos has become an acceptable social norm); however, it cannot be the case that mere vanity and cultural influence account for all the reasons why we take selfies.
So far as we possess the capacity for self-reflection in terms of observing our own thoughts and actions, we also possess the capacity for self-reflection in terms of seeing a separate person mirrored in the external world. The fascination with selfies may be due to the fact that we objectify our appearance, for better or worse.
When you snap a selfie, it’s not always the case that you are fixated over yourself; it’s likely because you are viewing a second person. You are not your reflection. You’re the operator behind that reflection, just as interested in that image as someone else might be. Thus, you might actually be attracted to your outer self that walks the earth!
Selfies are like the world we see, which is not true and our true selves which we don’t see but are definitely existent. Selfies are like an addictive drug. The mind is made up of soft matter. As each thought passes through it, an impression is left on the mind and when such actions are repeated it deepens into a canal. If the canal is of good-thought waves, then a good character is maintained but when an action is undertaken with egocentric desires- the ‘I’ and ‘I want’ attitudes- that actions leave an incurable habit.
People who imitate the false values of others around them are stamped by the fashions of the time and lead a fruitless life of mere sense indulgences. They live a life of escapism. In spite of man’s self glorification and social status, he is indeed a coward to himself with no confidence in his own abilities.

Conclusion: The Final Take
If social interaction continues to erode, and narcissism increases, nations will someday face tremendous economic and psychic costs. Crushing debts left by the Millennial Generation will fall upon a country ill prepared for its economic future. At the same time, citizens will suffer from severe depression when their narcissistic balloons burst and reality strikes them.
Narcissism which is leading people to upload photos of themselves on to the Internet in order to find validation and the final happiness coming from the approval or disapproval of others is also leading to a culture of dependency. The dependency comes from the obsessive need to find approval from outside relations. We rely on the people—both friends and strangers—in our social networks to validate a particular view of the self. This becomes dangerous when the larger social response is in contrast to the current self-image the uploader has. When you get down to it, the philosophical problem with the selfie is that when we spend too much time thinking of ourselves, who we are, or how we are perceived by others – if we reduce ourselves to nothing more than mere images, we get caught in the trivial; as mere visual beings we lack substance. We become a society that values style over substance. Thus falling in love with our own reflection!
Can a narcissist truly do any good for others? Of course, the answer is no. A narcissist lacks the ability to identify or sympathize with others. A narcissist lacks empathy. A narcissist, by definition, cannot fix his attention to anyone or anything beyond himself.
Imagine an entire culture of people where a fascination on the self is encouraged! A culture of psychologically solipsistic people, encouraged to think as if they are the only people who exist, can never be a good thing. A successful, if not philosophically expert, society requires that people pay attention to other people at least some of the time. At a time when people are becoming more and more disconnected from each other, the natural world, and themselves, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what a true relationship with another person is, how to have meaningful connections, and what it means to be human. Instead of looking down at an electronic device, maybe people should start looking at each other in real life. The greatest weapon against Narcissism is reality. This is because Narcissism is built on a giant illusion - one that hides the subject/object relationship. So, in order to lean against narcissism we must move from illusions to the real.


* Stephen Arche, Sorry, Your Selfie Isn’t Art, Accessed on 26th January 2015, * Brooke Lea Foster, The Persistent Myth of Narcissistic Millenial, Accessed on 26th January 2015, * Lee Williams, The Growing narcissim of selfies, Accessed on 26th January 2015, * Kristi Karrenbrock, The Selfies generation, Accessed on 26th January 2015, * Robbin Carollo, Selfies and the age of Narcissism, Accessed on 27th January 2015, * Anthony Bila, The Philosophy of The Selfie, Accessed on 27th January 2015, * Lindsay Strouse, Finding Dependency in Narcissism, Accessed on 27th January 2015,…...

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Self Centered Generation

...Violet Dokaj Are Today’s Youth More Self-Centered than Previous Generations? I chose this topic because it is one that is very obvious. Today’s younger generations are very narcissistic. They have grown much more self-centered than other generations and have changed their priorities. We are now living in the I-Generation. Where looking pretty and uploading selfies has become the norm. Where children are losing their youth in order to get attention and feel important. Psychologists Dr. Jean Twenge and Sigmund Freud explore and researches the younger generations. Being a narcissist’s means that you are self-centered, and it is the pursuit of gratification from vanity, or selfish admiration of one's own attributes, that derive from arrogant pride. The term comes from a Greek myth of Narcissus. Narcissus was a handsome young man who saw his own reflection in a puddle of water and became obsessed with his own reflection. One of the many psychologists that studied this idea was Sigmund Freud. In 1914, Freud published a writing on his findings on the Narcissistic personality disorder. Freud says that the narcissistic attitude is actually a norm for people, it is part of the human experience. However, it is created into an ego through the experiences of infancy and young childhood. I agree with him on this. I feel that the self-centered part of a person doesn’t kick in until about the teenage years, or maybe even earlier. The younger generations have so much that the other......

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