Selfie obsession is creating an ‘incalculable quotient of misery’

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Me!

Get over yourself. Self fixation has run amuck and is producing insufferableness. Think selfie stick – the ultimate symbol of out-of-control selfness, angled to find perfection, yet we only see the flaws.

We’re in a culturally-prescribed perfectionism race, one we’re sure to lose. “You’re limited. Imperfect. And there’s nothing you can do about it,” says author Will Storr. And on top of that, you cannot be anything you want to be, no matter how hard you try!

Storr is the author of the just-released book Selfie. No not merely the selfie you take, but our “selfie” obsession, which is creating an “incalculable quotient of misery,” making us anxious, dissatisfied and sick.

Will Storr. (JAY BROOKS photo)

The digital self and selfie-takers are victims of the culture they’ve grown up in – a culture that has evolved into hyper-individualism. Storr charts the rise of the age of perfectionism over centuries, all the way back to Ancient Greece and right up to the present-day culture that so severely defines who we feel we should be and its effects. “In the U.S., Canada and the U.K. we’re seeing all sorts of nasty things going on – rises in suicide, eating disorder, body dysmorphia, self-harm, and so on,” all connected by perfectionistic thinking. “When we’re in a perfectionistic state of mind, we’re very sensitive to signals of failure in our environment,” says Storr, of willstorr.com.

Our self is under profound pressure. A major study published earlier this year found that perfectionistic thinking is on a big upswing and it’s taking a major toll on mental health. The World Health Organization reports a record number of young people are suffering from serious depression or anxiety disorders. Up to 10% of the adult population in the U.S. and U.K. is on antidepressants.

“There’s a massive amount of people whose supposedly self-interested selves are, for some reason, turning against themselves.” Suicidal thoughts are rampant. One survey reports that a majority of people who commit suicide are described as perfectionists by family and friends. Could it be “something about high expectations and then disappointment and then a terrible, gathering loathing of self?”

Life pushes us into these feelings of self hate in a concentrated way, says Storr, a novelist, award-winning journalist and contributing editor at Esquire. “We have to look perfect, be perfect mothers and fathers, have the perfect political views, the perfect lifestyles, eat perfectly-lit perfect brunches with perfect slices of perfect avocado. It’s too much!”

We compare ourselves to other people – often richer, more beautiful people – on the Internet which is more damaging than comparing ourselves to our neighbours. Storr himself is not exempt: “I seem to be caught in a lifelong rhythm of expecting more from myself than my talent and character can supply…”

Anything is not possible – even if you work hard! So take a chill pill. “I think we should all take a breath and remember that we’re not gods. We’re animals. We can’t be anything we want to be as the individualist propagandists always tell us, we’re limited by our biology. Everyone is a certain kind of human with certain kinds of preferences.”

Happiness is not becoming Beyonce or Steve Jobs, stresses Storr. Happiness is finding that one tiny, obscure corner of the world in which we can be quite good at something. “We’d be doing our young people a favour telling them this, which is the truth, rather than the toxic lie that begins ‘You are amazing!’”

Meanwhile, self obsession isn’t a straightforwardly bad thing, he says, adding that the western focus on individual achievement has pushed us to achieve incredible things. But the downside is that we tend to falsely credit individuals with successes that were actually the work of the group – think Steve Jobs and the iPhone – and that includes ourselves. “So we feel great when we achieve something amazing and everyone applauds us. But the counter of that is, when we fail, we put that failure down to ourselves too. We beat ourselves up terribly, and so do other people. Individualism makes us blameful.”

According to Storr, the culture we’re in right now is principally defined by our economy. “Since the 1980s we’ve been neoliberals and the hero of neoliberal culture is this young, energetic, self-starting, physically fit, entrepreneurial person we see everywhere. But it’s an illusion – a piece of tribal propaganda. This is the person our culture wants us to become.”

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies