News hit the nation last January about a 19-year-old Adamson University student falling to her death from the roof deck of a 22-story condominium. The reason? She was reportedly trying to snap a selfie of herself. A friend who was with her when the accident occurred said the victim was trying to climb up the ledge, aiming for the sunset as the background of the shot. The story is obviously tragic, but is also surprisingly hilarious to some. “How can you even die from taking a selfie?” they ask.
The thing is, news like this shouldn’t be a laughing matter. In September last year, Mashable reported 12 selfie-related deaths worldwide (four were from falling). It had just eclipsed the global record of fatal shark attacks, then at eight. This leads us to think about how taking selfies and photos in general has now gone and become part of our, yes, lifestyle—but this shouldn’t be news to anyone.
Going to great lengths (or heights) for a selfie might be a symptom of digital narcissism, a term coined by Andrew Keen, the British author behind Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us, a book on Internet culture. It basically means using online tools to promote ourselves—“driven by our need to continually manufacture our own fame to the world.”
While there aren’t a lot of studies on digital narcissism yet, this modern phenomenon generally boils down to an exaggerated sense of self-importance and neglect of others, according to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the handbook of physicians and psychiatrists worldwide.
But what if today’s youth are just self-confident and want to show it to the world with a cleavage-revealing #OOTD or an abs-flexing snap? Well, studies have shown that similar to having a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), there seem to be socio-psychological implications on how one perceives oneself and her relationships when it comes to being a digital narcissist.
“This gives narcissists the opportunity to fall in love with themselves all over again; thereby, creating a world of infinite self-promotion and shallow web relationships,” Keen, who promotes online privacy to the extent of deleting his Facebook account, stressed in his TEDxDanubia segment in 2011.
Everyone’s a ‘Reality Star’
Digital narcissism hasn’t seen a rise so steep than in the situation today, with social media apps and sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat allowing us to share, well, everything about and of us.
The formula behind the epidemic can be traced to the reality TV genre. In an article he authored for The Guardian, University College London business psychology professor Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic noted that it was reality shows that engendered the generation of voyeurs whose interest was piqued by what’s “genuine” on television. (Do you ever wonder why the Kardashian-Jenner household bears such appeal?) Then, social media came and turned the tables, allowing users to be the stars of their own reality show. Social media rooted itself in the art of “digital exhibitionism and inappropriate self-disclosure,” tolerating and even enhancing one’s need to peacock. Of course, it got crazier, with everyone being varying levels of show-off.
A Vicious Cycle
Seeking others’ approval through likes and comments from statuses and posts can be “healthy,” too, pointed out Chamorro-Premuzic, but going overboard isn’t, and, in fact, this starts a vicious cycle that may be hard to recover from. For example, posting a (well-liked) photo of yourself on the beach will surely compel you to buy another cute bikini for your next trip. Like, you can’t wear the same one in every photo, right? Then, you ask yourself where do you go for your next vacay and where do you even get the moolah for that? Cue: Panic. Somehow, the gratification you get online never seems to cut it when you’re offline. The pressure to live the life you want to portray on the Internet is felt like never before.
Generally, digitally narcissistic people obviously do it to “compensate for a low and fragile self-esteem,” said the author. “Yet, when these efforts are reinforced and rewarded by others, they perpetuate the distortion of reality and consolidate narcissistic delusions.”
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Original article by Barry Viloria. Photography by Mike Gella. Styling by RJ Roque. Makeup by Mary Ann Sy. Hair by Reynard Bonuzo of Triple Luck Brow & Nail Salon. Modelled by Paolo Abes and Chin-Chin Obcena. Shot on location at The Study Idea Space, 2/L Regis Center, 327 Katipunan, Quezon City. Check out more exciting stories in the latest issue of CHALK, now out in major bookstores. CHALK is available in bookstores and on newsstands for P100. Download the CHALK Magazine app for access to all digital editions on your tablet or smartphone, available in Zinio, and Buqo Digital Newsstands. Like CHALK on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@ChalkMagazine).