April 11, 2014
A “selfie,” when posted by an even remotely attractive girl, is a bit like telemarketing. Everyone claims to hate it, and conventional wisdom deems it to be incredibly annoying, yet it somehow still works. For all the talk about how lame selfies are, if a mildly sexy, filtered girl shares a quick picture of herself in almost any unintentionally retarded pose and throws in some SEO hashtags like #shorthairdontcare or #girlswithtattoos, she can easily generate a couple hundred likes and a plethora of gushing comments from desperately horny guys willing to throw her a bone (I’ve been there).
In other words, despite the nearly universal negative publicity selfies receive, they still easily achieve the desired attention-getting effects. Perusing young females” Instagram profiles (a hobby of mine), one can”t help but notice that the most narcissistic and selfie-plagued girls have HUGE numbers of followers, likes, and comments. It’s not uncommon for an attractive Starbucks barista or a girl who sells Hello Kitty iPhone cases in a kiosk at the mall to have over 10k followers, despite the fact that she’s a nobody for all other intents and purposes.
Perhaps shameless self-promotion and narcissism are an unhealthy expression of one’s feelings of low self-worth. Psychologists have told us as much. However, narcissistic personality disorder can drive people to achieve great success. Think of how many great films, songs, and technological achievements would have never come into existence if not for the narcissism and megalomania of their creators and dreamer-uppers. Without the late Peter Sellers, the Pink Panther as we know it would be dead, and we would never have gotten to see Hrundi Bakshi in the awesomely politically incorrect brownface classic The Party. What about Norman Mailer’s creative nonfiction, or “Trump: The Game?” They would all be purged to the dustbin of some Sliders style parallel universe, and we would only hear about them through the overactive imaginations of weirdos in (defunct?) alternate history newsgroups.
Indeed, it might seem liberating for some narcissists to think that if only they had been emotionally healthy, they could have just grown up normally, impregnated the first mediocre girl that showed interest, and worked a common job in the shadows without the need to prove anything to anyone or become an iconic success to shield their wounded self-image. But the traits of self presentation associated with narcissism have shown time and time again to be highly effective tools, not merely in social media, but in the business and entertainment world, academia, and politics. Some manifestation of them seems to be required for any profession where one needs to convey the notion that “I”m involved in something that you should feel is important and interesting,” regardless of whether it is or not.