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The end of the (selfish, selfie) world as we know it?

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

New behaviours are spreading as quickly as the coronavirus itself. The behaviours associated with narcissism: Arrogance, lack of empathy, perfectionism, Instagram selfies. There’s no place for those right now. There’s no place for ego.

We are living in the age of narcissism.

I would usually cite a reputable source to substantiate such a claim, but another feature of this age is that facts are irrelevant, so it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.

We can blame new media, social media, rapid change, the Kardashians and a host of other recent phenomena, but we have only to look at the pressures of modern society to see how we got here. Constantly told of the importance of individualism, we march off alone into the abyss. It feels weird, but everyone else is doing it. Besides, the rewards for a bit of confidence and some shameless self-promotion are plain to see: Followers. Affirmation. Relevance. Influence.

There is a generation that unwittingly see themselves – their own individual identities – as brands. In so doing, they seem to have forgotten that they are other things as well. But the message is clear: curate yourself. Show the world your best you. Play the game and stand a chance to win.

But what happens when the game is put on hold?

It looks like we’re about to find out. The world is simultaneously waking up and shutting down. Covid-19 is about to fundamentally change the way we live our lives. Temporarily at least, but isn’t everything?

For some, it is a mild inconvenience. For others, the incarnation of fear itself. A few face immediate risk while many have little to worry about, but every man, woman and child on Earth is somehow, finally on the same team.

Let’s repeat that. We’re all in this together.

For the first time in many of our lives, the world is uniting –taking extraordinary action – against a common threat.

There are some glorious ironies here that deserve to be celebrated, and we should do that if we’re ever allowed to congregate in groups again. In the meantime, we will fight for each other by isolating ourselves. We will come together by remaining apart.

Ideologies that are predicated on varying degrees of self-interest, ideologies that have been growing in popularity – the likes of authoritarianism, capitalism, nationalism – they’re sort of irrelevant right now. New behaviours are spreading as quickly as the virus as we are all compelled to consider our loved ones, family, friends, complete strangers and our role in society.

Similarly, the behaviours associated with narcissism: arrogance, lack of empathy, perfectionism, Instagram selfies. There’s no place for those right now.

There’s no place for ego.

Who knows what things will look like when we have it under control? It remains to be seen if this is just a temporary break before we resume business as usual. Or will we learn something?

So much is uncertain. And most of the fear we all feel can be attributed to this uncertainty. About the only thing we do know is that there’s a long road ahead.

There is also a generation of people, thrust into adulthood with good intentions and a smartphone. We want to be seen. We want to be heard. We want to make a difference. But we’re fumbling around – lonely – in a rapidly changing world.

Let this period of social distancing give us the feeling of community we have been missing.

Let isolation remind us that what we need more than anything is each other.

James Bisset

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