The narcissism epidemic: Me, myself and selfies

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By Loredana Vuoto

Self-obsession has reared its ugly head in America like never before.

Kim Kardashian — the queen of selfies — recently debuted a T-Mobile commercial during the Super Bowl spoofing her selfie addiction. In the commercial, the Keeping Up With the Kardashians reality star, bemoans the loss of millions of unused data taken back by wireless companies. As she is famously known to do in real life, Kardashian is seen taking selfies in various outfits highlighting her assets. The ad ends with Kardashian standing in front of a wall displaying her larger-than-life selfies with the tagline, “It’s Your Data. Keep It.”

Warped self-love logically leads to unhinged social behavior.
Warped self-love logically leads to unhinged social behavior.

Social media is abuzz with the selfie. Whether it is Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, celebrities and average citizens alike are snapping and posting pictures of their own faces or body parts. Even President Barack Obama and Pope Francis are participating in the trend. Selfies range from different glamorous profile angles of the face to zoom-ins of the buttocks.

Oxford Dictionary noted the selfie explosion in 2013 and crowned it the word of the year. Since then, selfies have become a household name proliferating social media. They are used as an immodest tool of self-promotion and to bolster self-esteem. Beyonce, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber are a few of the most famous repeat offenders.

Some noteworthy selfies include Kardashian in a revealing white bathing suit showing off her derriere just four months after giving birth to her daughter. Also famous is Miley Cyrus dressing up as Lil’ Kim for Halloween, wearing a pink wig and one of the rapper’s zany outfits. And who can forget Obama’s selfie with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in December 2013?

There was also the famous selfie taken by Ellen DeGeneres during the 2014 Oscars featuring A-list celebrities. The selfie tweet was seen by 37 million people worldwide and is estimated to be worth up to one billion dollars.

But the selfie craze has taken a deadly turn. Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that a selfie caused a fatal Colorado plane crash in May 2014. The NTSB discovered that the pilot lost control of the small plane when he took a selfie during the climb-out portion of flight. Two men died.

Selfies were also rumored to be part of the unfortunate demise of comedian Joan Rivers. A staff member at Manhattan’s Yorkville Endoscopy clinic claims that the doctor performing a biopsy on Rivers’ vocal chords took a selfie in the medical room while she was under anesthesia. Rivers went into cardiac arrest shortly thereafter. She died a week later.

This obsessive selfie trend displays a radical shift in understanding love and human existence. The human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Life is a gift of love bestowed by God. By first receiving this gift of life, man is called to love God first — not himself. He is called to love his neighbor who also bears God’s image. The human person commits idolatry by worshipping himself instead of his benevolent creator.

Warped self-love logically leads to unhinged social behavior. On Jan. 3, love of self was taken to new heights when Yasmin Eleby married herself. In honor of her 40th birthday, Eleby invited family and friends to a “unique” celebration at the Houston Museum of African American Culture. But this birthday party was really a surprise wedding ceremony to herself.

“I’d been saying a few years that if I hadn’t gotten married by the time I was 40, I’d just have a wedding by myself,” Eleby said. “I wanted to have a celebration of myself. My wedding was going to be about me making a commitment to love myself, to honor myself and to know my self-worth.”

In the unconventional ceremony, Eleby vowed to forgive, love and honor herself. Her eldest sister, niece and friend served as ministers for the ceremony. They sealed the self-covenant by asking the 160 guests, “Who thinks Yasmin is 40 and fabulous?” “We do!” they affirmed. Only a self-obsessed world would indulge such absurdity.

Greek mythology has long exposed the tragic demise of self-love. Narcissus was a young hunter renowned for his beauty who died due to his vanity. He drowned being unable to tear himself away from his own reflection in a pool of water. Narcissism — the word born from Narcissus’ fate — captures the wretched depravity of uncontrollable self-love.

The key to the meaning of life is not glorifying the self and remaining skin-deep. Rather, we are called to look inward to the soul which points to God. God — not self — is the answer to man’s most profound questions.

“Man is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, [and he] cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself,” Pope Saint John Paul II wisely noted in his encyclical, Gaudium et Spes. It is through this gift of self of loving God and neighbor that man discovers who he really is. No amount of selfies will ever capture this true self-knowledge rooted in real love and happiness.

Loredana Vuoto writes regularly on cultural issues for She is a former speechwriter for Sen. Rick Santorum and was assistant national editor and an editorial writer at The Washington Times.

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