In its ideal form, charity is a humbling experience: sacrificing something you could use for the benefit of another. But as the ALS ice bucket challenge demonstrates, being charitable now means making sure all your friends and acquaintances know you're a caring, generous person. For celebrity publicists, charity crazes represent public relations opportunities for their clients, and so have they become for each of us in smaller ways. It seems obvious that the ends justify the means in cases like these. What harm does a selfie or Youtube video do if millions of dollars are raised for medical research?

University of Georgia professor W. Keith Campbell agrees that narcissism is now met with reward but that doesn't mean there aren't negative aspects as well:

"[Narcissism] has these positive short-term qualities. But it also has more negative qualities which are that you’re often more willing to manipulate people or take advantage of others. Your ethics suffer, so it’s very much a mixed bag."

In other industries, such as energy efficient consumer goods from cars to solar cells, advertisers use people's desire to be seen as good as a selling point. Consumerism now has a positive veneer that once left if vulnerable to even the most apologetic social critic. Ideally good behavior would be entirely generous but as long as narcissism is here, why not get some good out of it?

Read more at BBC Future

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