The Self Phenomenon: The Curse of Narcissus

The original selfie-trator, Narcissus. Image via Erik MacKinnon

My bestfriend and I recently hung out with a group of friends we haven't seen in a while. It was a dinner at a quaint place at a very busy city so the second floor of the place had pretty much just our table of about 10 people. We both haven't seen this set of friends and on the way home, as she dropped me off, we did our "check." "

Is it me, or is everyone busy talking about themselves over the other person?" she asked. 

As we tracked back into the night, we did realize that as we sipped on our smoothies and nibbled on our salads, everyone was indeed a) taking photos of themselves b) talking over the other party c) playing a game of who's better than who. Now, before you think we are both some kind of self righteous hags, well, we did have our own phase of self love going on. 

Erik MacKinnon, a blogger and entrepreneur from British Columbia recently came up with an interesting commentary on the behavior of social media and the phenomenon that's the #selfie. He boldly states {and with accompanying research, too}, that:

What’s the point of all of this? It’s pretty simple: if you’re the type of person that relies on the constant admiration of others through #selfies or whatever else – you might need your head examined. Perhaps try using the camera on the other side of your phone for a while.

What is wrong with taking selfies, you ask?

Technically, there is nary a wrong reason for putting up your 'at-the-dentist' selfie. Or your 'before-going-to-sleep' selfie. Nothing, really. Everybody who's had a smartphone in their teens and up have gone through it. But as time has proven, a little too much self-involvement can be lethal.

I hear this a lot in the circles where I move: the numbers of likes, hits, pageviews, UVs, retweets and all those reflect how much your selfie / site / blog is liked. Humans are rewired to feel neuroplastic changes in the brain such as dopamine rush from all the likes and the hearts from virtual friends, therefore causing a pathological addiction to online attention. It's like eating ice cream, cookies, chocolate and cookie dough in one sitting. All that sugar and when you've ran out --- hello, withdrawal symptoms.

Going back, what happens now to narcissistic folks? A trip to mythology from Erik tells us:

Do you know where the word ‘narcissist’ comes from? In ancient Greek mythology, Narcissus was a man that was incredibly proud of his own beauty. As the legend goes (and depending on which version you read), Nemesis – the goddess of revenge – became angry with Narcissus when he rejected Echo, a nymph that had fallen in love with him. (That’s them in the photo above.) Nemesis lured Narcissus to a pool where he saw his own reflection and – not realizing it was himself that he saw – he became enthralled at his own beauty. When he eventually figured out that he was looking at himself and that he could never be in love with what he saw, he died. Or turned into a flower… again, depending on which story you read. 

That’s right – the guy took the modern-day equivalent of a #selfie and HE DIED.

Though fictional, Dorian Gray is to be remembered when in discussions on the topic of vanity. He after all preserved his skin, his lips, his age, everything -- in exchange for his soul.

The world has changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curve of your lips rewrite history

Now, you're probably wondering if you are a narcissist. Dr. Sandy Hotchkiss outlined the seven deadly sins of Narcissism. A quick scroll in here tells us all the traits and signs of a narcissist, too.

Hotchkiss identified what she called the seven deadly sins of narcissism:

  • Shamelessness: Shame is the feeling that lurks beneath all unhealthy narcissism, and the inability to process shame in healthy ways.
  • Magical thinking: Narcissists see themselves as perfect, using distortion and illusion known as magical thinking. They also use projection to dump shame onto others.
  • Arrogance: A narcissist who is feeling deflated may reinflate by diminishing, debasing, or degrading somebody else.
  • Envy: A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person's ability by using contempt to minimize the other person.
  • Entitlement: Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an "awkward" or "difficult" person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage.
  • Exploitation: Can take many forms but always involves the exploitation of others without regard for their feelings or interests. Often the other is in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible. Sometimes the subservience is not so much real as assumed.
  • Bad boundaries: Narcissists do not recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate and are not extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who provide narcissistic supply to the narcissist are treated as if they are part of the narcissist and are expected to live up to those expectations. In the mind of a narcissist there is no boundary between self and other.

Pretty much like Narcissus and Gray, self love is good but excessive, tunnel vision love for oneself is pretty destructive. I cannot believe the self entitlement statements we all hear everyday {and all those that have come from me}.  Mythology and Dorian Gray have had it. It can happen again. 

OH. And while on the subject of the selfie, here's a cute little video that reflects another angle of the Selfie Phenomenon:

Guess I will lay off on the Instagramming for a while. :) Maybe we all should.
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