This is probably going to sound odd coming from a guy who has a giant picture of himself running with his column, but I don’t really get the whole “selfies” thing. If I could convince my editor not to run the photo of me, I would. I’m just not that in love with my own reflection. Particularly since I got, you know, old.
The whole idea of people constantly and indiscriminately posting self-shot images of themselves all over social media pretty much creeps me out. Trust me, if we go 15 minutes without being updated on how you’re looking right now, we’ll survive somehow.
Of course, I also don’t get the people who post pictures of their food all over Facebook. Yes, that pasta you’re about to devour looks yummy, all right. You are one lucky homo sapien, dude, to be digging into such great grub. But I’ve got to say there is little that interests me less than looking at food I can’t eat.
But I digress.
I’m bringing this up now because this past week, a story broke quoting a head doctor who crafted an opinion whose profundity is exceeded only by its sheer obviousness. A Dr. David Veal declares that spending an inordinate amount of time snapping selfies may cause “mental illness and narcissism” as well as “body dysmorphic issues.”
Let me see if I might cut through all of that to release my own conclusion: Duh.
And I’m not even a mental health professional!
I also think this doc might have gotten it backward. It isn’t taking the selfies that’s causing this stuff; it’s this stiff that’s leading to the selfie addiction. Snapping them doesn’t cause the illness. The narcissism and distorted body image lead to taking, posting and obsessing.
Why is this happening? Because it’s so dang easy. Using cellphone cameras and then the posting and sharing on Instagram and elsewhere require almost no effort at all. It’s merely taken the place of people standing in front of the mirror admiring and/or obsessing over their reflection for hours on end. Add social media’s mechanism for instant feedback and you have a recipe for potential mania.
Of course, we can also extrapolate this to encompass the entire social media world that encourages such rampant navel-gazing and self-involvement.
Any of us who are on Facebook, in particular — which I’m guessing at this point is most of us — can relate or are guilty of it as well. “I’m eating lobster!” Shared. “My kid is the greatest, most educated, smartest, most amazing child ever to walk the earth!” Shared. “We’re on our way to Paris after just having returned from Zurich!” Shared. “Look at how hot my wife is, will you please?” Shared. “I just won another Nobel Prize, this one for ending world famine!” Shared.
The stuff you would once have merely scribbled into a journal for discovery in your attic 27 years after your death now gets published and proudly displayed for a — let’s face it — resentful public.
No one wants to know how cool you are, and if they say they do, they’re lying. That’s the chief issue with social media, to my mind. It isn’t just class warfare but coolness warfare, however unintentional. I have more than you. I travel farther than you. I eat more extravagantly than you. My kids are better-looking than yours. And by the way, you haven’t commented on or hit “Like” for one of my posts in quite some time. What’s your problem, anyway?
It all points to a vanity and self-importance that serves not to bring you closer to your FB “friends” but indeed accomplishes quite the opposite. The exception to my mind is the way Facebook handles birthdays. Having a lot of people acknowledge your existence once a year, however fleetingly, can be a beautiful thing.
This brings us back to selfies, of which I implore everyone: Stop it! Take pictures of clouds or your garden. Your dog. Your adorable niece. Even your lunch. Anything but another shot of you by you.
Thank you. Now turn off the power and step away from the phone. Go ahead. Do it. I promise it’ll only hurt for a second.