Self-obsession is creating a neurotic culture. Can we fix this? https://t.co/Uh0WtHCE60
While this might seem to be an outlier in the billions of selfies taken each year, you have to wonder how we’ve become so separated from our environment—and so obsessed with fulfilling our every whim—that we’d think stopping in the middle of pretty much anything to take photos of ourselves is a good idea. While this addictive habit is many things, journalist and novelist Will Storr decided to investigate the origins of self-obsession in his latest book, Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us.
After writing The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science, Storr began wondering what made us focused on our interior desires and hopes. For example, as he told me, why do people make decisions due to their biases and prejudices even when they don't help society, or even themselves? He knew tribal allegiances play an essential role, but the depth of our individualistic focus ran much deeper than even he suspected. This obsession, he posits, has resulted in increased suicide rates and numerous emotional disorders.
The book starts at the end of the story, in a sense. In the US, suicides recently hit a thirty-year high. A recent American freshman survey found more young students felt overwhelmed in 2016 than in 2009. Self-harm rates are jumping in the UK and US; eating disorders are also increasing. Steroid use is through the roof.
Storr believes the connective tissue between these phenomena is perfectionism, which he traces back to ancient Greece. He is not alone in this assumption. In her 1942 book, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, the classicist Edith Hamilton cited Greek culture as the first to idolize gods as humans; previously gods were represented by animals, animal-human hybrids, or elements. While Hamilton notes that Greeks transformed our perception of gods from fear to beauty, they also championed the human form—namely, a steeled body—as the ultimate representation of divinity.