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24 January, 2016 00:00 00 AM
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Narendra Modi and his selfie-obsession

Modi’s obsession is well known, as is the habit of instantaneously flashing his cell phone and clicking way, be it with commoners or world leaders
Kumkum Chadha
Narendra Modi and his selfie-obsession

It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who popularised the selfie among Indians. This is not to suggest that India was not tech-savvy or unfamiliar with the concept or its application. Selfies were in vogue even before Modi hit the national scene but they were not in the realm of being a VIP phenomenon. It was Modi who made it a point to tell India and the world that he is a selfie-practitioner, so to say. 

 As Prime Minister, his message went out loud and clear. Therefore, there are several instances of Modi clicking selfies. Once he did it, others followed suit. Members of his Cabinet, bureaucrats and most VIPs who otherwise kept selfies  a private affair, went public. They had no qualms given that the Prime Minister was, himself, an addict.  Therefore the selfie in India went viral. It caught on as it had never before. 
The first signs of Modi’s selfie-obsession were in April 2014 when as Prime Ministerial candidate, he took a selfie of his inked finger after he cast his ballot. As Prime Minister, he could be given credit for making a stiff leader like the Chinese Premier smile for a selfie: perhaps his first ever. 
Modi’s obsession is well known, as is the habit of instantaneously flashing his cell phone and clicking way, be it with commoners or world leaders. He does not stop there. He is also quick to post these on social media. 
It was therefore rather surprising when a year later, Modi turned down a woman volunteer’s request to click a selfie. This was on Yoga Day in which Modi had participated. He had also performed some asanas, yogic postures. There were some 30,000 odd participants and Modi was performing yoga with them. The refusal perhaps had something to do with his being caught on camera in a posture that may not be very endearing. 
That may be a one-off because Modi is a selfie man and is ever willing to click, either solo or with others. Were he aware that selfies are dubbed as a trait of narcissists, he probably would have exercised restraint. 
Medical experts are of the opinion that selfies are a consequence of low self-esteem, an attempt to seek attention and a bid in self-indulgence.
Add to that the serious consequences linked to selfies. There are enough studies to substantiate that selfies could lead to mental depression, illness and in some cases a tendency to suicide. There are case studies wherein the failure to take the “right and perfect selfie” has lead to self-rejection and an overdose of drugs. In this context, a case often quoted is of a man diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder and how he grew suicidal due to his selfie addiction. When he failed he attempted suicide by taking an overdose of drugs. He would spend hours  in his room taking selfies. His addiction culminated in a drastic weight loss and other psychological problems. This may be a one-off or an extreme case but there are enough indicators pointing towards selfies posing a problem more alarming and serious than is commonly understood.  
 The Mental Health Department in Thailand, for instance, went as far as issuing a warning to young people to keep the selfie obsession under check. It said that the addiction could have a negative impact on their life and work. The department 
1reportedly said that a selfie creates an impact, more or less, on one’s everyday life, depending on each individual. 
 The selfie, has what can be termed, a multiplier effect. Once posted on Facebook, the number of “likes” egg on  people to do it yet again. If a selfie gets a high number of likes, it leads people to post more: click and post. Adversely, if the number of likes is low, it could be a jolt to one’s self esteem. The need for approval, indeed, is very high and psychologists feel that its absence can have a negative impact on a person’s psyche. In UK, for instance, addiction to social media has resulted in illness. There are cases reported where patients are under going treatment. Self-confidence, experts have concluded, leads to happiness and those without it are prone to mental and emotional problems including depression, paranoia and sometimes even jealousy. 
As of now the more serious threat is of selfies causing accidents: sometimes fatal. In the recent past, India has had instances of the photo frenzy claiming lives. A 20-year old fell off a fort in Jammu while taking a selfie from the top of the fort. In the process he slipped, fell from the ramparts and died. Two engineering students fell into the river while taking a selfie near the flowing water; two others fell off the bridge and were swept away; three students were run over by a train while taking a selfie on the tracks; seven boys fell off a boat that tipped when they stood up to pose for a selfie; another fell off a rock when it cracked under his weight while he was taking a selfie. He plunged some 60 feet below and died of head injuries. 
 Rivers and rocks apart, tourist spots have often proved fatal when it has come to taking selfies. A Japanese tourist fell down the stairs of the Taj Mahal in India and died. 
 Reportedly, India has led the world in selfie-related deaths. Of the two-dozen odd deaths reported globally last year, India accounts for at least half of them. A popular tourist spot, the Taj Mahal attracts a large number of tourists who wield selfie-sticks and click away unmindful of consequences. 
 Taj Mahal is not the only haunt. Selfie-obsessed often flock to the Eiffel Tower which is counted as the most popular spot in the world to take a selfie, ahead of Disney World in Orlando, Florida and the world's tallest building – the Burj Khalifa – in Dubai. Others include the   the Empire State Building in New York, Rome's Colosseum, the Rockefeller Centre in New York and London Bridge.  
Several governments have moved in to restrict the selfie-trend.  Some have gone as far as banning them or disallowing their use in some areas. Tourists have, for instance, been banned taking selfies in Pamplona during the Running of Bulls festival. Despite India’s dismal record of the  high number of selfie deaths, the government has still to wake up to frame rules and guidelines for taking selfies. But with an over-enthusiastic Prime Minister Modi clicking away, chances of anyone daring to bell the cat remain slim. At least as of now.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com) 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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