Everyone is taking selfies lately: Celebrities, normal people, the president. It’s the selfie generation. Selfies are everywhere on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While selfies may seem completely harmless, is there a need to worry about this booming trend? Psychiatrists have linked selfies to narcissism and mental illness.
The definition of selfie is a picture taken of oneself by oneself, with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media. Selfie was declared as “2013 Word of the Year” by the Oxford Dictionaries and in 2014, the year was named, “Year of the Selfie” on Twitter. Selfies have become a cultural trend this year, as well. From celebrities to common people, everyone is joining the craze. There’s a TV series called Selfie and a song called “Let Me Take a Selfie.” There are even institutes that have started offering a selfie course, which teaches the art of perfecting your selfie. Are selfies just a trend or there dangers involved?
Selfies are more than just a trend. From celebrities flaunting their grand lifestyles or normal people capturing moments and sharing them on social media. We may laugh at our friends for posting pictures with pouts every hour or glower over our favorite celebrities being obsessed with taking selfies, but the research linking selfies to mental disorders can’t be ignored any longer. Something that started with just a click will have deeper, more severe problems if it continues.
Psychologists think that a mere habit of taking pictures of yourself until the “picture perfect” moment may be a sign of narcissism. Overly obsessed social media addicts are in a perpetual need of appreciation. They may be depressed, anxious, suffering from loneliness, or they’re self-loving individuals who quest for attention to fill an emotional void in their lives created by the prolonged exposure to social media. They are feeling the need to get noticed and appreciated by human tendency. Capturing a selfie in a certain pose, at a certain place, is one of the easiest ways to gain attention. The hidden caption behind selfies is, “Please recognize me, my looks, my talent, admire the way I spend my life. And if you won’t, I will find a better place to share them.”
Studies have also linked selfies to low self-esteem. A Boston-based psychologist says that taking a lot of selfies gives an indication of low confidence in that person. Another psychologist in London says that it is not an addiction, but a symptom of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Research done by the VoucherCloud app revealed that around 60% of teens (regular selfie takers) have a feeling of low self-esteem behind their smile.
Last year, Danny Bowman was in the news often in London. Danny was a 19 year old teen who was allegedly Britain’s first selfie addict. His selfie addiction made him spend 10 hours a day, clicking up to 200 pictures on his smartphone. Danny says that the urge to get the perfect selfie was suicidal. He lost his friends, got kicked out of school, and he lost his health all because of his addiction. The only thing he cared about was looking perfect. He was sensitive to criticism and felt miserable if he got negative comments on his body or picture, making him take even more selfies. Doctors thought that this was a severe case of OCD and BDD. The patient feels a lot of anxiety regarding his appearance.
Danny has been treated and is there to help anyone suffering with the same trauma. This was an extremely difficult phase in his life. Danny’s father said, “There is a huge lack of understanding about the dangers social networking and mobile technology can pose if a young person already has any insecurities – which most do.” David Veal, a consultant psychiatrist who dealt with Danny’s case told the Sunday Mirror, “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 selfies.”
Another research by the Ohio State University says that men who take and share a lot of selfies on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram possess psychopathic traits like the lack of empathy. There was a lot of gossip about the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for saying that there was a disease caused by taking selfies called Selfitis. Selfitis was said to have three stages: borderline Selfitis (clicking pictures of oneself at least three times, but not sharing on social media), acute Selfitis (taking selfies at least three times a day and posting them on social media sites), and chronic Selfitis (an uncomfortable urge to take selfies and post them). Even though this gossip was found to be a hoax, it still has its set of after-effects.
People with the habit of clicking selfies is actually a cry for help. Psychologists have suggested ways to make it better. One way is to keep a selfie journal. All you have to do is write everything that’s on your mind when you’re about to take a selfie. Analyze this as a way to satisfy your need for social recognition, or it’s a way to deal with the mood swings and anxiety. If you feel you are becoming addicted to taking selfies, please take a break. Talk to someone you trust and consult with psychiatrist or counselor. Give your smartphone a break and lessen your visits on picture uploading sites.