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Selfies Aren’t Always Just a Selfie

Aug 11 2016
Selfies Aren’t Always Just a Selfie

“Selfies”. A simple word that has become a phenomenon in today’s society. One can buy a “selfie-stick” to get the perfect angle. There are books and blogs on how to get the perfect “pic”. There are people who have become celebrities just because people follow their social media to see their latest “selfie post”. 

What initially started as a fun act of capturing a picture of oneself without the use of a photographer, has now become behavior that can lead to addiction, narcissism, and even suicide for some.

It’s important to think about what these selfies mean to our mental health, especially when it comes to teens, who are often the most frequent “selfie” posters.

Clinical psychologist Bart Rossi said, “Today too many people are interested in making a statement about themselves on the internet and creating an influential existence. Selfies, when used to excess show a lack of depth and a shallow personality. If someone is obsessed with taking selfies it is most likely because the individual is self-absorbed and narcissistic.” – elitedaily.com

In a different article for Psychology Today, doctor Pamela Rutledge says “that taking selfies can be detrimental to a person’s mental health and that indulging in them is indicative of narcissism, low self esteem, attention seeking behavior and self-indulgence.” 

For most, selfies are just a fun way to capture a moment in time, but for others, the response they receive from viewers about their picture becomes associated with self-worth. They over evaluate the “likes” or absence of likes, and equate those responses with their value.  The more likes they get, the more they post.  It the response from viewers equates to a “high” that makes them feel good.  They crave that feeling and become more and more obsessed with posting.  They start to need that reinforcement similar to an alcoholic or addict need the fix to get through their day. A focus develops for capturing a selfie at every event or the perfect selfie, always seeking to supersede the rush they get when they see someone “likes” them. They become obsessed with their importance to others, interpreting their actions or looks as being as important to others as it is to them. Thus a narcissist, a person obsessed with themselves, is born or amplified.

On the reverse, when a selfie is posted and there is no response or even negative responses, the poster internalizes those actions as valid data about their beauty or importance. Some posters respond by becoming obsessed with taking a picture worthy of someone’s approval.  The perfect angle, the perfect light, the perfect outfit.  They hope to fill a void within that can never be filled from outside sources, therefore never achieving a sense of satisfaction that they strive for. The lack of satisfaction they feel creates a risk, often setting them up for disappointment, depression, and for some, suicide. 

The selfie obsession is more prevalent among females, but it also seen among males.  Society places emphasis on people to be perfect, beautiful, and fit a perceived societal image of “ideal”.  Because ideal is in the eye of the beholder, and the concept of appealing to everyone’s ideal is unrealistic, those obsessed with selfies are not able to achieve the sense of satisfaction they hope for, and are constantly looking at and judging themselves based solely on their looks. 

The reasons for the narcissism, depression, obsession, or other mental health issues are not really the selfies themselves, but rather the selfies are the trigger for underlying issues.

Our children are learning to rely on the internet and social media for feedback once received from in-person interactions with others and hard work. So I leave you with this thought – Since research has shown a connection between selfies and mental illness, are we creating a future for our children that inherently increases their risk for mental illness? If so, what are we as parents, professionals, society going to do to prevent that from happening?

Comments and opinions are from Kellie E. Branch-Dircks, MSW, LCSW, alone. She is a licensed-therapist who treats patients using LiveHealth Online Psychology.  

You can visit a licensed-therapist using LiveHealth Online by scheduling an appointment.



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