The New Narcism of the Digital Age

If in the last thirty years the disease to be treated has been depression, for the next few years it will be narcissism, which in itself is not a disease, is not a pathology, and has not led to particular tragedies to date.

But if we do not focus on what is happening in the era of the digital revolution, it will become a disabling pathology, a modern hysteria, capable of compromising social relationships, work, and feelings.

What happens if billions of people travel around the world ready to photograph everything they see? It happens that the web is filled with images, and we know this.

But if through the two or three billion cell phones people begin to photograph themselves and self-publish it happens that the narcissistic disease will cause irreversible damage, because if before the self-timer was a complicated practice, today it has become a habit, thanks to front cameras. Thus the web is filled with photographs that, unlike in the past, give a sort of power to make us more interesting, falsifying normality: through shots, cuts, lights, and expressions, and even sophisticated tools that falsify normality they can make us appear as we aren’t, showing us in a way that can upset the physiognomy of people.

Desires and future possibilities that have only been dreamed of are expressed through an image. Through elements such as the gaze, a way of posing, the use of accessories exorcises what has not been experienced. There is the hope of becoming, for the infinite instant of the image, what one has always wanted to be.

Digital cameras are not the evolution of the old analogue photography, they are a new way of looking at others and oneself. Billions of photographic tools will allow us to offer ourselves and to others the image of what we would like to be.

This collective narcissism steals identity and hides us.

It is not a faithful reflection in the stream, but it is a dreamed stream. And if what one would like to be overlaps too much with what one is, there are only broken images, empty ones, photos on the sidelines of absent lives. There remains a blind soul without a mirror, capable only of masking the future.


Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

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  1. I share your worry, Aldo, that technology influences us in ways we are not cognoscente of. Like believing that Facebook lives as publicized have much to do with the other person’s full reality.
    But I also wonder how this distortion differs from what people put into words in previous generations. Resumes, now Linkedin profiles,… don’t they, too, paint a picture of what people want(ed) to be seen rather than what they really contain(ed)?
    What is different is that self absorption takes so much space in the collective mind – perhaps as it has become a marketing supported industry rather than an “a handful of times in a lifetime” event to draw broad attention to oneself.

    • Charlotte,
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment; I really appreciate it!
      I must say that when I happened to stigmatize this feeling of mine it seemed to me that it is now an unconscious, automatic behavior, perhaps a game.
      People, especially young people, do not realize that even certain behaviors can backfire in moments of life when spontaneity, the truth of oneself matters.
      Take care of yourself, Aldo

  2. Aldo, thank for this brilliant piece. I paused and read this three times: “Collective narcissism steals identity and hides us … there are only broken images, empty ones, photos on the sidelines of absent lives.”

    Recently, my wife and I went to Ellis Island and Liberty Island in New York City. We looked from the Statue of Liberty out to the mouth of New York Harbor through which my wife’s grandparents came from Italy and through which my ancestors came from Ireland. We held hands and shared goose bumps. All the while we were surrounded by young people with cameras and selfie sticks, trivializing and ignoring the history of all of it. I was as sad as I was angry. Those young people will never what we’ve lost, what they’ve lost.

    I suspect all of us have similar feelings as we get older. But our increasing predilections toward superficiality seem tragic.

    • Mark, thanks for your heartfelt comment.Yes, it is also possible that certain considerations affect us more in old age. And maybe I am exaggerating, but I have the feeling that modern society is a little too superficial: there are few who know the meaning of the fundamental values of humanity: love, seriousness and respect. Everything and immediately, while it would be necessary to reflect sometime.
      To return to your story, a monument is not a place to take just a selfie, but a place of memory of past generations that have left a mark. The problem is that perhaps today the ego comes first and no importance is given to the “signs” that are left in the path of one’s life.
      I really hope I’m wrong.
      Thanks again for your valuable contribution to the discussion.
      Take care of yourself.