Do you post selfies? If so, you’re far from alone; the selfie trend seems to have reached a fever pitch in recent years. Back in 2014, Google revealed that Android users alone take 93 million selfies per day! And pretty much all celebrities on Instagram have up-close pictures of their faces that they’ve decided to blast out to their fans. Selfies come in all different forms: reflective, silly, sensual, and just downright vain.
Some of us in the mental health field have recently taken a deeper look at what’s behind this selfie-driven culture. What are the reasons some individuals manically post and “like” pictures of themselves and their friends online, and what are some of the possible drawbacks of this mindset and behavior?
Studies have shown the connections between Facebook use and loneliness. Could an obsession with selfies show similar findings? Research experiments of two groups of 1,200 men and women found that those who frequently posted selfies often exhibited what psychologists refer to as the “Dark Triad,” which are the traits of narcissism, manipulation, and disregard for others’ feelings. Yikes! Not the prettiest picture (no pun intended) of selfie takers.
I don’t believe, however, that most people who snap selfies are arrogant narcissists. Not at all. Every person’s motivation is a little bit different, but there are some common deeper implications that may accompany the tendency to take pictures of yourself. One includes the human desire to capture memories. We like to have proof that we’ve lived, that we’ve had enjoyable and meaningful experiences with others. A picture may provide that piece of evidence that we’re looking for. It’s natural to want to be remembered and to have left our mark, and in some ways a selfie may be a sort of photographic legacy.
Is wanting to remember your life a good reason to take selfies? Sure. It’s fun to look back on younger times and see what we were up to. Even in our selfie-saturated culture, though, there are ways to leave your mark that don’t involve putting an iPhone camera in your face. Why not write in a journal or create something that will last?
It may not be the most pleasant thing to hear, but the truth is that your social media friends probably don’t think about your selfies all that much. They may comment or like them in the moment, but then they move on and probably won’t think about them again. Selfies can be enjoyable for a time, but they may not have much lasting value.
Another thing your selfies might say about you is that you are looking for validation. The entire purpose of posting a picture, video, or status update on social media is for others to take notice of it. It’s not bad to want attention; everyone needs a healthy amount of it. However, posting selfie after selfie (duckface, at the beach, etc.) may be a sign that you’re desperate for others’ approval.
Although interaction with the virtual world can be a part of a healthy social life, it shouldn’t make up the bulk of your relationships. So if you find yourself taking and posting a ton of selfies, make sure you’re nourishing your face-to-face friendships as well.
Some join in the selfie craze to be part of a social group or movement. For example, many women have hopped on the “no makeup selfie” bandwagon to portray themselves as more real and authentic. Many of these movements have hashtags that go along with them so that participating members can connect with each other. Using social media and images to promote a certain idea or statement is a creative way to express your social and political viewpoints, but taken too far these may be yet another way for us to obsess about our online presence.
Above all, I would encourage people to try to balance out their selfie posting with pictures of other people and other activities. People who post selfies too often may appear shallow or self-centered. Take them sometimes to make memories, to express your views, and to connect with others, but don’t let photographs of yourself be your main message to the online world.