Stop taking selfies. The most important thing you see when traveling is not yourself.

Narcissus by Caravaggio depicts Narcissus gazing at his own reflection. Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica.

Narcissus by Caravaggio depicts Narcissus gazing at his own reflection. Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica.

The dreaded selfie is the latest example of the narcissistic self-promotion that degrades modern life. The Washington Post once described the selfie as “that embattled crux of a hundred quiet culture wars.” If this is a war, sensible people should sue for peace and declare the selfie a crime against human dignity. The most egregious warriors of selfiedom should pay reparations to everyone who has suffered through social media feeds in which puckered duck lips mar everything from the Eiffel Tower to funeral processions.

It’s disappointing that seemingly respectable people now have Facebook photo albums, Instagram feeds, and Twitter photos that are exclusively selfies.  People travel the world and apparently the most worthwhile things they find are themselves!

Selfies, like most things, are fine in moderation, but when every image you broadcast is of yourself, please consider that perhaps you are not the most important thing in the world.  In fact, your friends and family already know what you look like and we would rather see the view of Machu Picchu you are currently blocking.  Please step out of the frame.

Selfies don’t just block views; they may also signal something more unsettling. A new study from The Ohio State University found that men who posted more photos of themselves than others scored higher on measures of narcissism and psychopathy.

Perhaps the selfie craze is an unfortunate consequence of modern life. Narcissism and psychopathy have always existed, but cheap and ubiquitous camera phones have made the problem worse. Furthermore, as the world urbanized, residents in big cities learned that economic success depended on setting themselves apart from others. Relentless self-promotion was not just a personality flaw, it was a key to making a living.

How much do I loathe selfies?  I looked through my Instagram feed for all of 2014.  Of the 384 photos I posted, only five (that’s 1.3%) were selfies.

  1 comment for “Stop taking selfies. The most important thing you see when traveling is not yourself.

  1. January 11, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Two thoughts:
    First, late last year, I was in New York, and my partner and I made the trip downtown to visit the 9/11 Memorial. Both of us are, of course, old enough to remember the event and what the world was like before, and as such this was a very solemn moment.

    So I was greatly offended to see large numbers of people there taking individual and group selfies of themselves smiling in front of the pits that mark the place where thousands of lives were extinguished and where the world changed irrevocably.

    It seemed so obviously inappropriate. Why would anyone do this? If one of my friends posted such a selfie, I’d give them a piece of my mind. But I doubt that will happen, since I don’t have many friends in that age bracket (say, 22 and under).

    Which brings me to my second point.

    This seems to be most extreme among young people. And I think it’s because they’ve been socialized with the selfie in a way that the first half of the Millennial Generation was not. For them, the selfie always has been. It’s not something they think about.

    For the first half Millennials, I’d argue that Facebook and Twitter are similar. We post things online that our parents wouldn’t say our loud to their neighbors. But the technology came of age during our coming of age, and without any societal rules, we were left to devise our own. The selfie falls into that category, I think.

    And perhaps it’s because I’m now an old codger, but I agree with Eric. Stop the selfies. Get over yourself.

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