Column: National epidemic

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October 26, 2012

Column: National epidemic

FULL-wellinA national epidemic is sweeping the United States of America.

It’s something that our Founding Fathers could never have thought, or even wished, that our nation would ever suffer from.

I’m reminded of this epidemic every time I log on to Facebook. It inundates my Instagram feed three or four times a day.

It’s even appeared in a couple of my dreams, which is certainly cause for alarm since most of the time I just dream about sleeping.

In short, this epidemic has infiltrated nearly every facet of my life. And so here I am, writing to implore everyone to restore the sanity back into my life by doing the following: please stop taking pictures of yourself in the mirror.

Yep, that’s right. It’s nothing new, I know. People have been flooding the Internet with pictures of themselves taken by themselves for at least a decade.

And yet, still, no one has perfected the art of the self-pic.

There’s a reason for that, and it’s because there is no such thing as a great picture when said picture is taken in the mirror.

I’m not entirely sure if a name for this fad has been created yet. Most of us are aware of the classic “selfie,” which is created when you take a picture of yourself using a webcam or by reaching your arm out to snap a picture of you and your friends.

But a mirror picture? Surely there must be some clever name for such a popular trend. However, an extensive Google search provided no concrete answers to my question, which accounts for the first time Google has ever failed anyone.

But regardless of whether I personally think this unnamed fad is a nuisance, there’s a larger truth to be learned from the human psyche based on this alarming trend.

It’s obvious that we’ve become a society obsessed with ourselves. Everything revolves around us.

As in, “Hey, look at me after I just worked out!” or “This is what I look like before I go out on a date with my boyfriend!” (Usually such captions are poorly capitalized and misspelled, but that’s another column for another day.)

The purpose of a picture is to capture the essence of a time and place in a thoughtful and memorable way. Could Nicéphore Niépce, the inventor of photography, ever have envisioned that people would become both the picture taker as well as the picture subject all at once? Surely this wasn’t his original intent.

I’m reminded of the Swiss-born philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who is exactly the sort of person who would be Instagramming his face every five seconds were he still alive today. (After all, this is the man who, when he wrote Confessions, dedicated it “to me, with the admiration I owe myself.”)

Rousseau was one of the most influential narcissists of the Enlightenment, and his theories of amour de soi (or positive self-love) and amour-propre (or pride) are still being studied today, as scholars and students alike continue to analyze the fascination we as humans have with ourselves. But unfortunately, the world hasn’t learned much from the poor example Rousseau set.

So here we are, Generation Y. We have the tools of the world at our fingertips, but we’ve abused the privileges that come with having access to everything we could ever want. We’re overexposed, and it’s killing our generation by making us look like egotistical maniacs.

But we don’t have to stoop to such a low. We have the ability to rise above the mediocrity that surrounds us and refuse to succumb to our self-absorbed instincts.

So no matter how ripped you look after your workout or how great you think your outfit looks, it’s time to take action. Hand over your camera or phone. Step away from the mirror. And as painful as it may be, go on an Insta-diet.

You may be ready for your close-up. But the rest of us aren’t ready to see it.