Selfie | Will Storr

Summary of: Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us
By: Will Storr

Introduction

In ‘Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us,’ Will Storr investigates the origins of our self-obsession and its consequences on our mental health and society. Delving into history, culture, and the psychological mechanisms underlying our self-esteem, Storr explores how ideals have shaped our perceptions and self-identity over the years. This book summary will guide you through the development of the perfect self-concept, the impact of social media on our self-image, and the rising trend of narcissism. Join us as we uncover truths about our perception of Self and how it has been molded by society and culture across centuries.

Shaping Our Perfect Self

Our bodily ideals and cognition are shaped by cultural and societal norms. The Western ideal of a sleek physique can be traced back to ancient Greece, while other cultures value fat as a symbol of high status. Our thinking is influenced by formal education, and people of different societies may have varying cognitive patterns.

The Power of Influence

Jesus, Confucius, and Kim Kardashian may seem vastly different, but they share a common thread of being influential individuals who shape the culture around them. This power comes from subconscious cues that indicate success, from imitating the dominant voice tone to copying someone who displays competence. As a species, we are wired to identify and mimic the most successful, as it was advantageous for our hunter-gatherer ancestors to do so. Status symbols and the Paris Hilton effect, where attention generates more attention, play a significant role in amplifying someone’s status. Ultimately, influential individuals impact our ideas of who we want to be, molding the culture we live in.

The Emergence of the Perfect Self

The nineteenth century marked a significant time in the history of Western civilization. The introduction of steam power, railroads, electricity, and social mobility radically changed people’s sense of self-being. Individuals were no longer tied to their environment but were seen as masters of their own destinies. As a result, the economy became central to shaping people’s sense of self. Self-determination became the new social ideal, and the hardworking man capable of self-improvement emerged as the perfect self. This shift was mirrored in the emergence of the self-help genre. The first self-help book, Self Help, provided individuals with tools to improve themselves and take advantage of opportunities in modern society. These books and the image of the perfect self they presented continue to influence our perceptions today.

The Dark Side of Boosting Self-Esteem

The belief that high self-esteem is socially beneficial gained wider currency in the 1980s, but it has no basis in fact. The earliest academic research into self-esteem cast doubt on its potential role as a social good. In fact, programs designed to boost self-esteem have led to an increase in narcissism. Boosting people’s sense of self can leave them convinced of their superiority, which is on the rise. Numerous studies have shown that the level of narcissism in young people has skyrocketed since the 1970s.

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