SELF-OBSESSION IN AN AGE OF PERFECTIONISM

  ©Ellen DeGeneres

©Ellen DeGeneres

Self-love is a tricky issue, and the right amount of it has always depended on perspective. I have healthy self-esteem; you’re a bit full of yourself; he’s a total narcissist. But in a world where you can buy a stick to hold your phone at the approved distance to take a photograph of yourself, has it all gone a bit too far? 

The problem with the idea of being your authentic self is that you almost certainly do not have a single authentic self. Will Storr traced the evolution of the ‘self’, from Ancient Greek notions of individualism, to the birth of the self-esteem movement in 1980s California. He reflected on contemporary Western culture’s ubiquitous image of the ‘perfect’ self as extroverted, slim, politically aware, successful and attractive. In his book he discusses how our environment helps shape who we are and he theorises that our hyper-individualistic, competitive society has lead to the rise of ‘neoliberal narcissism’.

In his newest book Selfie, he asks why it is that so many people are feeling anxious and unsatisfied with their lives. He believes the problem lies with the age of perfectionism and with the primordial attractions of social media magnifying our desire for such. Because Instagram and Facebook constantly bombard users with images of other people’s endlessly “amazing” and “awesome” lives, it’s not just FOMO (fear of missing out) we’re at risk of, he says. Above all, it is a severe loss of self-confidence if you think you’re not living up to this ideal. 

Storr is an electrifying analyst of internet culture, documenting the rise of connectivity in prose that crackles with the energy of the early 21st century. Exploring the psychological impacts of social media. The word “narcissist” still carries a strong tone of moral disapproval, yet the young selfie-taking generation has possibly developed itself in a very egotist society. With that being said, recently, quite a few members of Generation Y seem to have found time away from selfie-taking to go on a digital detox.