In the last year or so, we have seen a great increase in the selfie – that is, the practice of taking photos of one’s self and posting them on social media websites. Some people have gotten so into taking selfies that in one case, a 19 year-old man stopped attending school and eventually attempted suicide over his obsession with taking selfies. According to Emily Diaz of MastersinPsychologyGuide, “Every like, share and positive comment is a boost to their confidence, and this works to fuel the desire for more selfies.” This selfie-taking has actually gotten out of hand for many people.
A psychiatrist named Dr. David Veal in the UK treats patients with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. He has found that two out of three people with this condition since the rise of cell phone cameras have a compulsion to take multiple pictures of themselves.
Recent Findings of People Who Selfie
Given how popular the selfie has become, there has been plenty of research done on the phenomenon:
- Taking high numbers of selfies may show that you have shallower personal relationships. A study was done in Europe called “Tagger’s Delight? Disclosure and liking behaviour in Facebook: the effects of sharing photographs amongst multiple known social circles.” This study found that people who post more selfies than most people tend to have shallower personal relationships. In this study, 508 Facebook users were asked to rank how close they felt to their relatives, coworkers and relatives who use Facebook. The study found that an increased frequency of sharing selfies, was directly related to a decrease in intimacy in relationships.
- Some people may not react positively to your selfies. Birmingham, UK Business School Professor Dr. David Houghton believes that other than your very close friends and family, people generally do not relate as well to other people who are constantly sharing selfies. He notes that the information that we post on our Facebook Wall is viewed by many types of people: friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers. Each group may take a very different view of your selfie.
- Taking selfies may damage self esteem. Selfies can be detrimental to self esteem, according to Lucie Hemmen, a Santa Cruz clinical psychologist and author of “Parenting a Teen Girl: A Crash Course on Conflict, Communication and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter.” She believes that there is a ‘continuum of health and authenticity in what you shoot and post.’ A mature and secure person will post spontaneous selfies that are not staged, and they won’t do it very often. A more insecure person will post staged, or even sexualized photos. These people can become consumed by the practice, as well as by the comments they get on social media.
- One’s self esteem may be dictated by selfie comments. Psychologist Jill Weber states that there is a danger that one’s self esteem can be directly tied to the comments and likes you get when you take a selfie and post it. Those opinions are not based upon who you are, but just on what you look like.
- Selfies make up as much of 30% of the photos taken by millennials. This statistic indicates that many young people are indeed focused on taking many pictures of themselves and sharing them.
The selfie seems to generate a fair amount of negative attention in some circles. However, many experts believe that it is a harmless novelty, as long as a line is not crossed into obsession.
Ann Steele is a freelance writer whose work and research has appeared in several high profile magazines and on websites such as Medicalopedia.com, Parenting.com and more. As a graduate of the University of Las Vegas, she now conducts regular workshops about the psychology of self and on occasion is asked to write creative editorial around topics in social media. She welcomes feedback on all articles.