Narcissism is the New Religion

Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

How many photos does one take, on average, before they achieve the perfect selfie? The one you want to show to the world? The one that—supposedly—has captured your most authentic self? I’d say the median figure falls somewhere around a dozen. But are repeated attempts at capturing ‘realness’ truly authentic then? The answer is self-evident that if something is practiced, posed and perfected, it cannot be spontaneous, it cannot be genuine. And yet we try to and we do express unto the world our speck of specialness in a sea of specialness, posting image after image of our strengths and successes, whilst neglecting the aspect that binds us all together as humans, which is, curiously, our frailty.

I have a fellow that I follow on Instagram who is bound to a wheelchair, and it saddens me how small his reach is for someone who is so humble and humbling, who posts such uplifting and encouraging quotes, words and images. A man who goes through the motions and rigours of life that we of total mobility all take for granted. He does not embrace his victimhood, either, which is perhaps why no one pays him heed: because he will not play the game of specialness. He is simply a man who happens to be in a wheelchair, and if that is somehow uninteresting, then how uninteresting must the lives of the able, posed and perfect be? Again, the answer is self evident, and I see why he is ignored.

I know that we all want to be special, and in many ways we are made unique, apart from each other. However, in today’s culture war we seem torn between whether self or society is the absolute truth. Are you a republican or a democrat? You must be one or the other, you cannot share the partial values of both, despite the non-binary fad that has afflicted every social construct aside from politics. As usual, these are the arguments stemming from and postured by extremists, though we see these ego-worshippers’ insanity trickle down through social media and we echo, mock or insidiously accept their doctrines with tacit nods or silence.

I realize the irony in me, as a public figure with regular social media updates, making any argument against the rampant narcissism and attention seeking of today’s society. I also realize that the picture used for this piece is clearly calling attention my own failings, though it seemed suitable. Although I would argue that at least in my instance, I try to post when I’m feeling something, or when I’ve experienced, made or want to share an portion of my life that I feel is valuable and will resonate. Realness cannot be scripted. Realness can rarely be captured unless it’s as it occurs, while still living in the moment, or shortly thereafter. Quality over quantity, people. Philanthropy and humility over gloating and excess.

I feel as if we’re starting to collectively tune out the latter type of content, which should bring us, at last, to a vision of humanity expressed in all its quiet splendour: the silliness of pets, the smiles of grandparents, the magic of a season in transition to the next. These transient miracles are what linger in the mind and heart, and, hopefully will be what the internet archives for posterity in the ages when we’ve moved beyond our navel-gazing and self-adulation.

All my love,