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