Some words appear to come out of nowhere and suddenly become part of our daily vernacular. Let’s take SELFIE. The word was crowned Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year in 2013 but you could say (at a stretch) that the concept of a selfie has been around since 1889 when Van Gogh painted himself. The first photographic selfie was taken by teenager (no surprise there!) Anastasia Nikolaevna in 1918.
Fast forward 100 years: over 1,000 selfies posted on Instagram every 10 seconds, 93 million selfies are taken each day. We even have toddlers mimicking their parents by taking selfies and animals are getting into it too! A monkey named Naruto (our header image) triggered a landmark copyright case over who owned the rights to his selfie (whilst Naruto lost the case, the owner of the camera later agreed to donate 25% of profits to protect the monkeys in Naruto’s homeland).
There’s no getting away from it, selfies are here to stay. But is there something we can do to prevent a full scale blow out of selfie-ism…a society of self-obsessed, self-absorbed humans?
Hey, I’m all for taking a selfie to mark a moment in time, especially if a cat, dog, duck or newborn is involved! But how do we stop it becoming an addiction?
Selfie-ism worries me. Aside from the disgraceful behaviour seen at historic sites, the unnecessary deaths (yep more people die from selfies than shark attacks!), the distraction from real life, the rise of perfectionism and with that dangerous cosmetic surgery procedures. What is all this self-absorption doing to our brains? Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do” so if we spend a large part of our day thinking about ourselves and our ‘image’ and acting on it, when does that leave room for considering others, for nurturing empathy and compassion? Science reveals that self-absorption kills empathy and lack of empathy leads to one thing – narcissism.
It worries me, because now more than ever, what we need is a society that has more compassion and more empathy, not less. And creating the society we want to live in is down to us isn’t it? After what is happening in the USA and the musical chairs (here we go again) in Canberra last week, we certainly can’t rely on Government to lead or guide our society. IT’S DOWN TO US.
There is an easy solution to all this however
Whilst status and the need to be liked is indeed innate, there is another instinctual desire that is just as strong – that is, the desire to do good, to feel purposeful, to connect to other humans. In today’s materialistic world more than ever.
Millennials, often thought to be the worst offenders of selfie-ism, are actually the most active change makers of all the generations. Unlike mature Baby Boomers they are not just ‘giving back’ at the end of a fruitful career, they are ‘paying it forward’ and not just with cash. They’re volunteering time and expertise, utilising a previously unavailable resource – the power of social media and technological innovation – to organise protests, change behaviour, alter legislation, crowdfund to solve society’s problems. Because they know they can’t rely on anyone else to create the world they want to live in.
The Giving High
The warm fuzzies we feel when we do good has been called the Giving High. Now utilising brain monitoring machines (MRI’s) the latest neuroscience reveals what this is. Doing good – whether it be an act of kindness, social activism, volunteering or donating cash – floods the brain with 2 important hormones that relate to ‘reward’ and ‘connection’ which demonstrates beyond doubt that we are indeed WIRED to do good. Physiologically this chemical cocktail is on a par with sex!
If you’re a corporation, company, SME or brand, then doing good is going to be excellent for your business. Doing Good will resonate and inspire customers (who will be more willing to buy your products and services, share with friends and social media), motivate staff (who will remain loyal and share good stories to others) and communities will be more welcoming.
And you don’t have to be a millionaire. People of modest means can also appreciate the joy of helping others as it is the simple key to genuine long-term happiness.
And here’s the irony. EACH act of DoGooding® makes us feel purposeful and valuable and happy and you’ll notice that people who do good are applauded and admired, which taps into that other innate desire, to be liked.
Our DoGooding® campaign is all about spreading the good word that doing good is good for us. And good for society.
Click here for more info.
And if neuroscience is your thing – Download our FREE report DoGoodology™ – the science of doing good.
 “Selfies, Narcissism and Social Media Infographic” – Adweek, January 2016