I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea. — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
We live in a time, it seems, that more than ever our focus is on ourselves. I think one of the main reasons for this is that with all of the technology we’re glued at the hip to, where we’re always posting, snapping, videoing and at times, literally exposing ourselves, our main subject of interest is usually ourselves — we want to share everything about us with others and can do it easily with the simple touch of an app.
Sure, it’s fun to take a picture of yourself on Instagram or Snapchat doing whatever it is you’re doing that you think other people want to see, but where it can get a little “me-centric,” which means it’s all about you, is when you get caught up in thinking that everything you want to share has to have you as the main attraction, and maybe, just maybe, there’s something or someone else in the photo with you.
The other day I saw a young woman take a picture of herself on her phone in front of the ocean. Good for her, for picking something beautiful as her background. That’s another thing that can contribute to being “me-centric” — you don’t need anyone other than you to capture yourself. We’ve seen countless “selfie” photos of celebrities at all hours of the day and night in the privacy of their bathrooms or bedrooms (some of them scantily clad), which can make you feel or think that you’re a part of their intimate moment. In a way, that very thing can invite or encourage voyeurism, meaning that other people can be a part of your personal experience only by allowing them to be an observer. It’s a little like “look, but don’t touch” — a type of virtual tease.
The whole thing has me very curious, and even slightly concerned, as far as the long-term affects of this “me-centric” time we’re living in. I’m wondering if we no longer were able to capture ourselves doing anything and everything, would we suddenly feel that we weren’t being seen? And does it also mean that our idea of being seen is determined only by how we choose to be seen, and not by how others see us without our controlling the images? If you can decide which is your best angle to Instagram or Snapchat yourself, then you get to control how you look, but will it annoy or upset you when someone takes a candid picture of you, and you don’t like it? I wouldn’t be surprised if I start to hear things like, “Ugh, I take such a better picture of myself!”
This also makes me think of the mythical story of Narcissus, who was a handsome, vain young man who disdained those who loved him. In a tragic twist of fate, he ends up falling in love with a reflection of himself in a pool — not realizing it was his own reflection — and dies.
Maybe it’s not such a good idea to get too attached or enamored of our self portraits. It’s not that I’m suggesting it can bring about a fate as unfortunate as Narcissus, but his story did coin a name to describe someone in love with themselves — narcissist. For all we know, this “me-centric” behavior can coin a name that’s equally unflattering, and pretty soon we might hear people being called a “selfie.”
Keep in mind that there’s a striking similarity between narcissist and selfie. You don’t need anyone other than yourself.
Ora Nadrich is founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking and author of "Says Who? How One Simple Question Can Change the Way You Think Forever". A certified life coach and mindfulness teacher, she specializes in transformational thinking, self-discovery, and mentoring new coaches as they develop their careers. Contact her at theiftt.org.