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The ‘Selfie’ Obsession: A Chronic, Narcissistic Mental Disorder

21st Century Wire asks…

Does this picture make you uncomfortable?

President Obama and VP Biden: Was it just horse play, insecurity, or do they have compulsive narcissist tendencies?

If it makes you feel uneasy, you’re not aloneIf the nation’s leaders have succumbed to this behavioral quirk, then no one is really safe.

As a member of the voting public, it should make you feel more than awkward seeing your top two chief executives engrossed in one of the most banal contemporary pastimes ever – taking a ‘Selfie’ [noun. a picture taken of a person, by that person].

One also must consider the very real possibility that these two men might be suffering from one of many mental conditions, including Body Dysmorphic Disorder, that are afflicting millions of smart phone users worldwide…

JUST WRONG: ‘Gym Selfies’ are now some of the most popular forms of digital exhibitionism.

Everyone is taking selfies now.

Should we really be worried about this trend, or is it just a case of people being empowered on a microblogging platform like Twitter, or Instagram? Writer Donna Highfill explains, “I have run into at least 10 people recently who have stopped on fast-moving, heavily-populated sidewalks to take 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.”

“If smartphones were ponds, a large portion of our population would have already drowned.”

No one is immune. Even celebrities who you’d think are already getting enough face time are still drawn to the cheap narcissistic released provided by the selfie.

Yesterday, the digital oligarchs at Twitter declared 2014 as the ‘Year of the Selfie‘. According to executives there, the most popular, the most retweeted, ‘tweet’ of the year was by comedian Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscar awards last March – with her celebrity ‘friends’, including Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, and Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt. Her Tweet was ‘favorited’ over 2 million times and retweeted 3.3 million times.

ICONIC, SAD: There’s something uncomfortable about watching celebrities grovel for a Tweet (Image Source: First Post)

It later turned out that DeGeneres’s spontaneous selfie was just another corporate money-making scam, as was confirmed by the Wall Street Journal. Samsung executives even had to teach Degeneres how to use the Galaxy Note 3 device before the Oscars.

To fully understand the scale of this problem, one need look no further than to the top of the social food chain – to the president of the United States…

More than any other western leader, President Barack Obama has systematically cultivated a cult of personality by using Mao-style campaign graphics and Hollywood production values. His most audacious skits however, have been of the narcissistic kind. In 2015, the President could be seen parading around the White House with a GoPro camera and a selfie stick (see photo, above). For Americans, as well as for NATO and G20 – it was cringe worthy.

Barack is no alone. No occasion is sacred either, including somber events like funerals (see photo of Obama, Cameron and Danish PM further down article). Obama’s funeral gaffe went on to inspire other more macabre copycat selfies…

‘GIRL, YOU’LL BE A WOMAN SOON’: Obama’s daughter Malia shot to selfie stardom last year with this snap (Source: Gawker)

From a pop psychology perspective, 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.” From a psychoanalysis point of view, it’s much more critical: “self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.”

Experts are now finding through new clinical studies, that this existing narcissistic mental disorder is now being further exacerbated by the introduction of hand-held technology and the ability to upload an image to a ready-made crowd of voyeurs in a matter of seconds.

BAD TASTE: This is just wrong (Image Source: Hongkiat)

More studies have been undertaken since the social uproar which was unleashed after last year’s story in Psychology Today (see article below). This past fall, the University of Georgia released their preliminary findings, as NBC reported:

“Researchers at the University of Georgia are studying the psychology behind selfies. A team of students is analyzing the selfies of 300 respondents. We have them take a selfie in the lab, and then we’re going to have people rate those selfies,” psychology professor Keith Campbell told the Today Show.

“To see if, can we detect narcissism from some of these selfies. Campbell is leading the group of students in the study. He says based on previous research, there are three main reasons people take selfies:

  1. Self absorption
  2. A social connection
  3. Art

We can laugh at social media users and scowl at celebrities obsessing with selfies, and even write-off this modern fad as merely annoying, but the mental disorder aspect is very real.

What starts with an innocent ‘selfie’ habit could be an indication that these self-obsessed smartphone 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. This is the very same condition suffered by most celebrities, only instead of social media, their over-exposure has been in ‘mainstream’, or mass media.

When celebrities feel compelled to ‘slum it’ down in the lower echelons of social media, then you can see just how powerful and addictive platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be for the average user…

‘DUCK FACE’: This tragic pose marks the downfall of western civilization (Source: Irkitated)

Watch this disturbing news report on people obsessed with selfies:


World Truth TV

You’ve seen it thousands of times on Facebook and other social media outlets – there is even a song on the radio about it. ‘Selfies’ have become a huge trend in social media and psychiatrists and mental health workers are linking them to mental health conditions related to narcissism and a person’s obsession with their looks.

According to psychiatrist Dr David Veal: “Two out of three of all the patients who come to see me with Body Dysmorphic Disorder since the rise of camera phones have a compulsion to repeatedly take and post selfies on social media sites.”

“Cognitive behavioural therapy is used to help a patient to recognize the reasons for his or her compulsive behaviour and then to learn how to moderate it,” he told the Sunday Mirror.

I’ve personally seen this with some of my own friends. They might take several selfies over and over again until they find the right one. Picking out details about their eyebrows, skin, noses, smiles, teeth, hair and so forth, all in an attempt to find the perfect angle to make the perfect picture. Even looking at how most of us choose our profile pictures on Facebook and other social media sites is a huge process.

Believe it or not, as harmless as these acts all seem, they build up over time to create and create great forms of self consciousness and false sense of confidence. 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. Is this sustainable?

Basing our happiness on our profile picture or selfie picture performance?

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 10.25.42 PM
Elite bureaucrats were so enthralled with taking a selfie that they forgot they were at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

How far can the selfie obsession go? A British male teenager went to the extent of  trying to commit suicide after he was unable to take what he felt was the perfect selfie. Danny Bowman became so obsessed with capturing the perfect shot that he would spend roughly 10 hours per day taking up to 200 selfies trying to get the perfect shot. As things got more and more intense for Danny, he lost nearly 30 pounds, dropped out of school and did not leave the house for six months as he kept trying for the perfect picture. During his suicide attempt, Bowman was saved by his mother.

“I was constantly in search of taking the perfect selfie and when I realized I couldn’t, I wanted to die. I lost my friends, my education, my health and almost my life,” he told The Mirror.

While this is an extreme case, it isn’t too far off from what goes through many of the minds of young, and even older, people as they take pictures of themselves for social media. Seeing other peoples pictures, seeing the attention they may or may not get, we end up comparing ourselves and the fine details of our looks. Overtime, an obsession builds and our looks become increasingly more important to us. Something I feel we should be focusing less and less on versus more and more.

“Selfies frequently trigger perceptions of self-indulgence or attention-seeking social dependence that raises the damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t spectre of either narcissism or very low self-esteem,” said Pamela Rutledge in Psychology Today.

(…) Narcissism, 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.

The addiction to selfies has also alarmed health professionals in Thailand. “To pay close attention to published photos, controlling who sees or who likes or comments them, hoping to reach the greatest number of likes is a symptom that ‘selfies’ are causing problems,” said Panpimol Wipulakorn, of the Thai Mental Health Department…

Continue this story at World Truth TV

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