The word “selfie” was declared the Word of the Year in 2013 by the Oxford Dictionaries. The word sprouted from a very simple concept that people around the world seemed to be fascinated by: holding your smartphone at arm’s length and pointing the camera at yourself.
At the peak of its fame, it was merely lighthearted. It was fun. But somewhere along the way it became worrisome. The trend, ongoing, may have become socially acceptable, but according to research, it’s also linked to mental health conditions related to people’s obsession with looks.
“Two out of three of all the patients who come to see me with Body Dysmorphic Disorder since the rise of camera phones have a compulsion to repeatedly take and post selfies on social media sites,” explained psychiatrist Dr David Veal. “Cognitive behavioural therapy is used to help a patient to recognize the reasons for his or her compulsive behaviour and then to learn how to moderate it.”
And an Ohio State University study found that men who posted more photos of themselves online scored higher in evaluations of narcissism and psychopathy.
More and more stories have even surfaced in recent years regarding “selfie deaths” in which people try to get a photo of themselves on the edge of a cliff, in the car, on a bridge, in the water, and so much more.
Are we so addicted we risk our lives to “selfie”?
Where does this need to show others ourselves and what we are constantly doing come from?
There have even been reports of suicide concerns, like teenager Danny Boman who spent 10 hours every day taking up to 200 selfies to get the right one. Because he never felt he could get the right picture, he ultimately tried to take his own life, but was saved by his mother. “I was constantly in search of taking the perfect selfie and when I realized I couldn’t, I wanted to die. I lost my friends, my education, my health and almost my life,” he said.
Such information makes taking a selfie feel wrong. But, are all selfie-loving people mentally ill? Anyone who is s selfie hater may be glad to hear that there’s negative news on it, but that’s not the only information out there to consider.
Other Information To Consider
Another study from the University of California, Irvine studied college students and discovered that taking selfies and sharing images with friends resulted in a positive effect on their psychological and emotional states. The researchers gathered nearly 2.900 mood measurements during the study and discovered increased positive moods and self-confidence as a result of taking these photos.
Spending too much time on any one thing can undoubtedly lead to an unhealthy obsession and hinder you from enjoying other aspects of life. But, if you enjoy taking selfies regularly, without it consuming your day or your life, perhaps that bit of happiness it gives you doesn’t have to mean you’re a narcissist.
“You see a lot of reports in the media about the negative impacts of technology use … but there have been expanded efforts over the past decade to study what’s become known as ‘positive computing,’ and I think this study shows that sometimes our gadgets can offer benefits to users,” explained Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at UC Irvine.
There are many positive aspects of taking selfies, like for self expression, to create a memory, to boost confidence. And of course, there are plenty of negative attributes as well, like making you a target for social media attacks, judgement from family, friends, significant others, which can lead to a fight, and create distance for lack of acceptance. People can even reach a point of self-loathing as a result, like the teenager who tried to kill himself because he feared he would never look good enough to be proud of his selfie.
When you come at it from a neutral standpoint, it’s clear that there is, much like many other aspects of life, a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ side of selfies. Perhaps take a step back and ask yourself whether you think your selfie habit makes you happy and is healthy or not. Where do you feel the desire for it comes from? Asking yourself these questions is important to getting to the bottom of it and discovering the truth.
After all, we are all individuals, and habits affect us all differently.