Selfie consumerism in a narcissistic age

This paper explores the recent debate about the selfie – or spontaneous self-portraits taken with smart phones or other consumer-based devices – in terms of its connection to narcissism. Selfies have become ubiquitous visual forms of self-expression in the twenty-first century and proliferate on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr. Popular discourses have largely characterized the selfie as a symptom of a narcissistic society. Journalistic responses have been derisive, but little attention has been given to the visual culture accompanying popular writing on the subject. Often presented as mere stock images, the visual dimension of the selfie debate has produced an ideologically skewed and largely pejorative representational schema with troublingly gendered connotations. Through an engagement with the ever-evolving discourse on narcissism, this paper explores inconsistencies in journalistic, clinical, and ideological understandings of this apparent personality disorder – as they relate to our cultural understanding of the selfie.