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David Brooks on Character in the Selfie Age

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  • Adolescence
  • Behaviour change

Are you driven by how high you can climb, or how deep your inner character is?

Do you obsess over your best selfie angle or your positive impact on the world? Popular New York Times columnist David Brooks argues that meaning and moral value are losing out in a world of ‘me me me’. A witty and powerful look at how we can improve ourselves in the ways that really matter.

Watch: 'Character in the Selfie Age'

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  • I grew up, like many people of my age (35), going to church at weekends where the mantra was "Jesus, others, yourself"..that sequence represented the order in which one's own importance was ranked. I was surrounded by people, particularly women, who believed prioritizing everyone else's needs was the best (only) way to live. So I've seen the Selfie 'age' as a backlash to that story or self-repression. As is the way, the pendulum can swing 180 degrees to the other side and examples of indulgent behaviour are to be found everywhere; looking at videos of oneself, examining facial expressions, etc. I wonder if there is a hunger to understand the Self, I think, couple with a lack of shame around luxuriating in our physicality. Also, a naivety in ideas about seeing is believing. If someone looks good, they must 'be' good/healthy/interesting/partner-worthy.


    But there are definite advantages - a flowering of self-awareness that can lead to better choices around physical development (through nutrition and exercise). Of course, vanity and blunted intellectual faculties too by, as you point out, simplifying the economics of thought, language, thought processes.


    I'd like to hope that underneath that 'blunting' though is a dismantling of complication, of trying to get to grips with the grammar of life. If many are beginning to see that living in a less sophisticated way can seem less burdened that the cobwebbed professors/teachers that used to be at the pulpit of everyone's physics or geography or history class or the weight of responsibility that the media and its doom-laden stories propagates 24/7... then I commend the evolution. I, for one, though not subscribed at all to the selfie-stick brigade, herald economy of living which technology is helping us to achieve. The Selfie is dead. Long live the Selfie! :-)