The selfie phenomenon, which has transformed our social culture, is commonly understood to be a photograph that has been taken by oneself, usually with a smart phone or webcam and shared on social media. Today, people post millions of selfies each day to social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Opinions surrounding selfies have always been divided. Some believe that taking selfies can be harmful as it could promote narcissism, unrealistic physical expectations, and eventual comparisons. Others believe that selfies can empower, as we are able to freely express ourselves.
In this article, we’d like to explore the ways selfies can impact our mental health — both positively and negatively.
The Reasons Why People Love to Take Selfies
Selfies are a form of self-presentation and expression, an interpersonal communication where a person conveys an image about him or herself to another individual. In addition to this, self-presentation enables a person to influence and manage the perception of themselves, by others. Every day, people present their ‘selves’, through their outfit choices, hairstyles and with brands to express themselves in a specific context.
But what motivates people to post selfies? People use selfies to portray a specific image as a reflection of their life, even if it is not genuine. Social media encourage some users to show their ideal-selves because it leads others to have a more favourable impression of them, despite how accurate it may be.
4 reasons why we post selfies:
1. To convey happiness.
People hope that their selfies convey happiness. Women like to post selfies as a way to collect happy moments, which can then serve as a reflection of their lives. They tend not to post selfies when they are sad or upset, posting photos which only showcase the best parts of their lives. Selfies often reflect how people would like to be perceived. By posting selfies that are indicative of happiness, they develop this desired identity.
2. To show beauty.
We post selfies when we look physically attractive to create an image of beauty. Similar to happiness, we desire to create and manage this identity through a selfie.
3. To enhance self-esteem.
Self-esteem can be seen as a motivation for posting selfies and an outcome of selfie posting for example, just as a substantial number of ‘likes’ can positively impact a person’s self-esteem, a lack of ‘likes’ can negatively impact it.
4. To get instant gratification.
Taking photos is not a new concept, and digital technology has allowed people to take and delete images anywhere, any time; better connect with others and promote the self. Selfies allow the opportunity for instant gratification in the form of positive feedback, shares and likes, something which has only been made possible with the rise of social media.
Benefit or Detriment to Society?
People have been taking pictures of themselves for decades. Heck, kings and queens back in the day used to sit for hours having their image painted or bust sculpted. In other words, taking an image of oneself isn’t unusual; it’s practically human nature.
It often sparks a lively, in-house debate: when it comes to society’s cultural fabric is the selfie friend or foe? Let us have a look at some of the pros and cons of this selfie culture.
1. Memorable moments
Selfies help to capture memorable moments. Most selfies are taken to remember experiences, showcase our travels, recording special moments or people.
People often take selfies during solo travels. They feel more comfortable in pulling funny faces on their own, instead of when someone else is taking photos of them. Group selfies are not as “posed” compared to stand-alone photos, as they help capture the essence of the present emotion and the feeling of being around people you are comfortable with.
2. Expressing emotions
Selfies are emotionally engaging and personal. As humans, we have our social needs. We are hardwired to crave human connection.
With the rise of the use of social media, selfies can be used in a different light, where we can pair our photos with encouraging captions. Whether we are supporting a cause, documenting our recovery journey, or being confident enough to own our body – selfies allow us to freely express what we feel.
It can boost a person’s confidence and raise your self-esteem if done in the right way. People feel socially integrated and have a lot of friends.
Selfies put us in touch with a lot more people. The goal is above all to create or strengthen one’s links with a particular community – with your fans if you’re a celebrity, or with everyday citizens if you are a politician.
5. Easy to do
The best part about selfie is that you don’t need to be a professional photographer to get your selfies clicked. It can be taken by both, professional and non-professional photographer.
That’s just it though, we live in a world where technology allows us to grab not just one photo of ourselves but hundreds. We don’t have to wait around for the paint to try in order to parade our image around, rather a few quick swipes, a witty caption and we’re done. Image presented and double tapped.
6. Modern devices and technology
Technology has allowed us to shape how we are perceived by others and to emphasize certain aspects of our lives to the world that we couldn’t easily do offline. We are easily able to interact with thousands of people simultaneously, as well as control who can view details from our personal profiles. The selfie taking devices are immensely easy to use and perform.
7. Group happiness
The amount of joy and happiness in group meetings and hangouts increases suddenly at the selfie moments.
It can be directly shared to your social media accounts and networking sites where your friends can see it and it can keep them updated about you and your lifestyle.
It’s a lifestyle trend and so easy to follow up with. The selfie marks the arrival of a new sort of language that plays on the way we see ourselves, on our emotions. Selfies are everywhere you look on social media.
Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are flooded with the knowing poses: a teenager with her kitten, a Chinese man in front of the Eiffel Tower, newlyweds at Disneyland, a fan with a movie star.
10. Helping introverts
Introvert people can get a way of talking to people easily without pushing their boundaries. If they do receive a positive feedback from the photos they have shared, it would encourage them to do it more. It might not necessarily make them feel more self-confident but it will make them less shy exhibiting themselves.
Even deeply depressed people are part of the selfie phenomenon, which allows them to exist too.
11. Best look
It allows for the social media world and subsequently the world to see you at your best.
The selfie is designed to create a heightened memory of an experience: usually snapped from above, at flattering angles, with an interesting background, selfies allow the total control of one’s image.
On one side while a selfie can have positive psychological effects, it can have some negative ones too.
1. Psychological issues
According to the latest research by a team of psychologists, people who take a lot of selfies per day have some psychological issues. Basically, they have an exaggerated interest in self-admiration of themselves and their physical appearance.
Social media has also introduced ‘the fear of missing out’. This keeps young people attached to their phones admiring others rather than being fully present in their real lives. Many may feel as though their accomplishments, social lives, fun moments and physical appearance have lesser merit if they are not accounted for on social media.
2. Living unreal life
Unfortunately we have come to overly rely on other people’s opinions, perceptions and judgments, to the extent that it effects the development of our own personal identities.
It has gotten to the point that comments on profile pictures alarmingly strongly affect our level of perceived physical, social and professional attractiveness.
3. Seeking attention
The one’s who post their selfies every day on social networking sites have an issue of being praised by others. They look for attention from their friends and the world out there, styling in weird poses and unnatural styles, just to typically get more “likes”.
Selfie-takers often put themselves at the center of all things. It is not a narcissistic problem, but a problem of ego, and overvaluation of the self.
That overvaluation craves as many “likes” as possible – and can betray a self-centered me-me-me mentality.
Selfies can become a powerful – and dangerous – addiction. The addiction of selfies grows over time and there is typically no stopping to it. Just like with any other phenomenon, there are excesses.
Women who use themselves or their own self-image are often dismissed as narcissistic. It’s a way of censoring, particularly, women and young people. By posting photos of ourselves constantly, the belief that it can become addicting is understandable. It is no denying that this may cause reliance on gratification and likes.
Taking selfie in a group can result in exchange of many germs and diseases. For example, selfies are bad for your hair. How? When you take a selfie with lots of people, the people come near each other thus increasing the chances of exchanging lice in the hair.
7. Personal information risks
There is also a growing trend of photobombing other people’s selfies – sabotaging their message without them knowing.
The misuse of your selfies is one if the greatest issues and a matter of concern. When you upload a selfie, there are 75% chances of it being downloaded and once someone has your picture, they can misuse it in literally any way. This usually happens when someone wants to have some kind of revenge with a person.
8. Deceptive perception
People tend to look more and more beautiful and appraisal worthy, thus not paying heed to their natural looks and pushing themselves to fit in the culture. With the availability of vast number of photo editing software and beauty apps, it is now possible for even a baby to look matured and beautiful. Thus, the pictures on social media accounts can be quite deceptive and for some people, incredibly offensive.
Selfies are one of the most dominant cause of deaths in today’s era. People lose their precious lives just for the sake of a silly selfie. For instance, once a news channel reported the death of a 21-year old as she fell of a mountain just for capturing a selfie. There are a lot of news and stories coming up every day and this toll is increasing on a daily basis.
In the end, taking selfies should not be determined as either a positive or negative trend. It can be a complex topic, and depends greatly on who the individuals taking them are as well as their personal habits.
To some selfies can promote a negative body image, and unrealistic expectations that can lead to a decline in their well-being and mental health. Yet to others it can be greatly empowering, as it allows them to share their life experiences with friends, and promote their own sense of identity through social media.
The next time you take a selfie, think about what it personally means to you and if it shows who you really are. Also, have fun! It’s not just about how chiselled your jawline would look, if you got the right angle, or if there’s a blemish on your face. Let your authenticity be louder than their façade!