When the press refers to “Generation Selfie,” do we sense a sneer? It’s almost as if the term selfie is shorthand not for self-portrait but for self-involved, self-absorbed, or simply selfish.
For most of human history, we got very few chances to see ourselves as others see us.
Selfies are widespread among millennials, many of whom grew up with camera phones. A poll commissioned by electronics maker Samsung reveals that fully 30 percent of all photos taken by 18- to 24-year-olds are selfies. For many of us, the selfie is just the new normal, whether or not we fill our own smartphones with self-regarding snapshots. But, as Pamela Rutledge writes for Psychology Today, some see the selfie generation “as proof of cultural — or at least generational — narcissism and moral decline.” And calling Generation Selfie a bunch of narcissists may not be rhetorical excess: according to a paper in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, selfie-posting behavior is indeed associated with narcissistic personality disorder.
Does this mean that modern society is growing more self-obsessed?
Belief in the “moral decay” epitomized by self-directed amateur photography results from a more general conviction that the virtues of community and altruism are being driven out by our culture’s overemphasis on the individual. Whether the culprit is capitalism, technology, or Western civilization more generally, the idea is that historically recent developments are fracturing our communal bonds and leading to…