In Fota Wildlife Park recently I saw the newly arrived Northern cheetah cubs - a trio whose boisterous zest for life did much to help blot out the ravages of Storms Francis and Ellen.
Beside us a visiting Manchester family stood equally captivated, except for the teenage daughter busy posing herself into pretzel shapes for the perfect selfie. "Forget the camera, love," the father gently chided, "just enjoy these gorgeous animals right there in front of you." She ignored him, of course, continuing to contort like an Olympic gymnast for the ultimate Instagram or Snapchat feed.
Pardon my middle-aged angst, but it's hard not to agree sometimes with the observation that "selfie is a first cousin of selfish".
Ever since the hashtag "selfie" went viral around 2010, the obsession for personal pictorial enhancement has muscled its way into mainstream culture, beating out "twerk" and "binge-watch" to be crowned word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries in 2013.
Given the excessive daily hours many teens and twentysomethings lavish on pitching the perfect photo, concerns around, its possible outright narcissism continue to grow.
Social media lets narcissists make a perfect picture of themselves, editing and doctoring before posting it online for an expected stream of social approval, according to a study by psychologist Kyle Nash of the University of Alberta, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. "It's the narcissist's perfect tool," he said, adding such individuals are particularly sensitive to exclusion.
Instant gratification is a big driver of the impulse to snap and post - especially when most pictures tend to get a lot of "likes", delivering the addictive glow of positive attention so yearned for by people like the teen at Fota.
But wasn't she just aping the snapping antics of media mavens like Ellen DeGeneres at the 2014 Oscar ceremony, when she shared a Hollywood selfie with Jared Leto, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie?
Time magazine included the image among the 100 most influential photographs ever taken, describing it as "a moment made for the celebrity-saturated internet age". Similarly, at the 2013 memorial service for Nelson Mandela, Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt couldn't stop herself snapping off a smiling selfie with former US president Barack Obama and British prime minister David Cameron. A funeral pic in negative taste, surely?
"I kept asking myself if it was a good thing or a bad thing," she admitted. "But because it made me so famous, I have to say it was a good thing."
Even the normally sound judgment of an experienced politician goes out the window when those craved "likes" are up for grabs. Love it or hate it, this addiction that began when Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection is here to stay.
Stay young and live long
I was having another minor pandemic meltdown the other day when a mate tossed me a copy of Living Long, Living Well, in which Japanese doctor Shigeaki Hinohara reveals his secrets to living actively right up to 105.
Listing the expected good diet and plenty of exercise, he surprisingly counsels against retirement. "Since 65, I have worked and volunteered 18 hours a day and loved every minute," he advises, adding that a bit of regulation bending is no bad thing. "Keep the attitude of a child, it's best not to tire the body with too many rules."
James Herriot was almost responsible for making me a vet, so much did I love the television series All Creatures Great And Small.
The boisterous and irrepressible Siegfried Farnon, played by the exuberant Robert Hardy, was my man for all seasons.
I'll be glued to the new series, starting on Channel 5 tomorrow.