Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What it's Doing to Us by Will Storr
(Picador, 2017)

Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What it's Doing to Us

by Will Storr

We live in the age of the individual.

We are supposed to be slim, prosperous, happy, extroverted and popular. This is our culture’s image of the perfect self. We see this person everywhere: in advertising, in the press, all over social media. We’re told that to be this person you just have to follow your dreams, that our potential is limitless, that we are the source of our own success.

But this model of the perfect self can be extremely dangerous. People are suffering under the torture of this impossible fantasy. Unprecedented social pressure is leading to increases in depression and suicide. Where does this ideal come from? Why is it so powerful? Is there any way to break its spell?

To answer these questions, Selfie takes us from the shores of Ancient Greece, through the Christian Middle Ages, to the self-esteem evangelists of 1980s California, the rise of narcissism and the selfie generation, and right up to the era of hyper-individualistic neoliberalism in which we live now.

It tells the extraordinary story of the person we all know so intimately – our self.

Reviews

I've come to consider Will Storr the best writer out there in terms of writing about human experience and the concepts and complexities of psychology. I've never seen such a well-thought-through and well-argued piece of work as Selfie, really taking ideas around self-esteem back to their philosophical and historical origins - and pulling them all to pieces. I loved it.”
- Professor Sophie Scott, Deputy Director, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London
Will Storr is a versatile, imaginative, committed long-form journalist with a populist touch . . . a talented, ambitious writer.”
- Independent
Storr can open chapters like a stage conjurer, and his prose has an easy, laconic style embracing Jon Ronson's taste for the fabulously weird and Louis Theroux's ability to put his subjects at ease. He is a funny and companionable guide”
- Guardian
In this riveting account of how our culture has defined who we feel we should be, from Aristotle to Ayn Rand, Storr charts the rise of our age of perfectionism, and our resulting addictions to selfies and social media. It's profoundly eye-opening, and not a little chastening. Arresting mirrored jacket too...”
- Bookseller
It’s easy to look at Instagram and “selfie-sticks” and shake our heads at millennial narcissism. But Will Storr takes a longer view. He ignores the easy targets and instead tells the amazing 2,500-year story of how we’ve come to think about our selves. A top-notch journalist, historian, essayist, and sleuth, Storr has written an essential book for understanding, and coping with, the 21st century. ”
- Nathan Hill, author of The Nix
Selfie is far more ambitious than its title might suggest: a serious (although funny) philosophical and psychological inquiry into consciousness. Storr has taken perhaps the most interesting subject (who we are and how we feel about it) and pieced together an overarching narrative from the latest neuroscientific research, smart reporting and careful selections of his personal history. It illuminates much of what feels peculiar about the world in 2017 . . . [Storr] has put in a formidable amount of work, he is irascibly good company, and he has something approaching genius for marshalling his material . . . This could be a pessimistic book. In fact, its insights are timely and welcome”
- Richard Godwin, Sunday Times
A history of the self from the ancient world to the present day . . . always entertainingly delivered thanks to Storr’s rich reporting. More than that, by taking a hammer to the sacred idea of the self – by putting culture back in the picture – Storr provides a much-needed corrective to our understanding of who we are. For that reason alone, Selfie should be welcomed.”
- Literary Review
Storr is an electrifying analyst of internet culture, documenting the rise of connectivity in prose that crackles with the energy of the early 21st century. Exploring the psychological impacts of social media via neuroscience and interviews with those affected by internet addiction and Twitter-shaming, Selfie is an excellent antidote to time-wasting on social media: words worth a thousand pictures.”
- Lucinda Smyth, Financial Times
Storr, a British journalist, has done huge amounts of research for this book … he conveys it with a gifted lightness of touch that is wry and funny”
- Carol Midgley, The Times
You’ll find yourself repeating entire sections of Selfie to your friends, and passing them off as your own.”
- Amy Grier, Cosmopolitan