It’s time to be really honest. How often do you take ‘selfies’ for your social media accounts?
How much time do you spend – primping, posing, shooting, selecting, editing, and then posting, followed by checking for ‘likes’ and comments? Your answers could reveal whether your selfie-taking is a bit of harmless fun, or an unhealthy obsession.
For those who blinked and missed the rise of the selfie craze, it’s that phenomenon popularised by the camera-phone, whereby one snaps a photo of oneself and then, most importantly, posts it on social media.
A recent survey commissioned by an online beauty store showed that some of us are spending staggering amounts of time on this activity.Of the 2000 women surveyed, those aged 16 to 25 were spending an average of five and a half hours a week taking these self-portraits. That’s three pictures a day, each image taking about 16 minutes to create and distribute.
The Rise Of The Humble Selfie
It’s no wonder selfie-taking has become so popular when, according to social media commentator Steve Kryger, ‘selfie’ was named the word of the year in 2013.
“The actual useage of the word selfie rose 17,000 per cent in 2013 alone,” Steve said. “So it really hadn’t been used much at all until just a couple of years ago.”
Once the buzzword took hold, celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Miley Cyrus, Barack Obama, Kevin Rudd and Kim Kardashian – who has just released a book full of selfies – joined in the craze. Tech companies catered to the trend, with front-facing cameras, selfie-sticks, and of course, apps.
“All kinds of apps on our digital devices make it really easy to quickly take a photo, edit that photo, enhance that photo, and then share it with the world, all in a very short period of time,” Steve said.
What’s Driving The Selfie Trend?
While the trend may seem like harmless fun for most, it’s worth considering what all these self-focussed images say about our self-perception. In the online survey*, 22 per cent said getting ‘likes’ was their main reason for taking selfies, while others posted self-portraits to attract the opposite sex or make ex-partners jealous. Nearly a third admitted to deleting their selfies from social media in minutes if they hadn’t garnered enough likes, while 40 percent said taking selfies made them notice more flaws in their appearance.
Clinical psychologist Leisa Aitken told Hope Media that while selfies were simply a fun way of connecting socially for many people, there were two groups for whom excessive selfie-taking was a problem. Namely, narcissists, and those with a low self-esteem.
“The psychological research on this is in very early stages because it’s a recent phenomenon,” she said, but “it does appeal obviously to people who have quite narcissistic tendencies, who are naturally quite self centred.
Selfies Feeding Into Self-Criticism And Eating Disorders
She said what concerned her most was the way selfies are affecting young women with low self esteem.
“We have a thing in psychology called ‘self-objectification’,” she said. “This is the tendency to look at your body as an object, based on its sexual worth, or basing your self-worth on your appearance, and especially how others judge you. The selfie can really feed into that.
“It has been shown to make people want to have cosmetic surgery more, and while research is in its early days, there really does seem to be a correlation with eating disorders. Some of the celebrity selfies look so thin, and so if there is already a problem with worrying about your body image it could feed that. Young women with eating disorders have been known to use selfies to monitor weight loss.”
Selfies are also a factor in body dysmorphic disorder where people becoming preoccupied with their flaws. Ms Aitken said the young women she worked with who showed obsessions with selfie-taking, were looking for positive feedback.
“It really is about trying to gain acceptance and self esteem by the ‘likes’ and comments, that’s the hook in this,” she said. “It’s a pretty narrow way of looking at self worth, if you’re just looking at your appearance.”
Over-Sexualisation Of Teenagers
Author and advocate on women and girls’ issues, Melinda Tankard-Reist, is famously opposed to selfies. She says young women – by learning to take their self-portraits from a high angle, exaggerating their eyes, cleavage, glossy pout and often tongue poking out – are turning themselves into sexual objects.
In a post on Tankard-Reist’s blog, school girl Olympia Nelson who was 11 years old at the time, wrote of the pressure selfie-culture placed on herself and her peers. She wrote that “pouty self-portraits have turned boy-girl relations into a cut-throat sexual rat race” and that the culture was breeding narcissistic tendencies.
Five Tips To Avoid Selfie Obsession
Despite the tendency to get over-obsessed with selfies, it’s not too hard to break the cycle. If your selfie-taking is going a little too far, try the following five tips.
1 – Ask Yourself Why You’re Taking The Photo
It’s important to reflect on where you are getting your self-worth from, according to Ms Aitken.
“Ask yourself, why am I taking this photo,” she advised. “From a Christian perspective, a huge part of our self-esteem is who we are – being made in God’s image – rather than being worried about how other people rate our image. Pausing to think about the purpose of the image you’re sending can be a way of checking that. Is it about me being narcissistic or self-obsessed, or do I need other peoples’ affirmation.”
2 – Remember, Pictures On Social Media Are Potentially Public
Ms Aitken said she had counselled young women who had engaged in sending semi-naked selfie-photos, forgetting that social media was a potentially public forum.
Remembering that an image you post online could be seen by anyone, regardless of your privacy settings, could prevent a lot of grief.
3 – For Every Selfie You Take, Take At Least Two Non Selfies
This tip is designed to help you balance out your photo taking.
“It will help you remember that life is about more than just you,” said Ms Aitken.
4 – Be In the Moment
Don’t take so many self-portraits with, or in front of, other people or objects, that you fail to enjoy the person or object itself.
“It’s possible to be so caught up with getting the perfect picture of yourself in the moment that you miss the moment,” Ms Aitken said. “You might get so caught up in the picture that you’ve lost the actual event.“
5 – If Obsessed, Ban Yourself
“If you notice you’re getting a bit addicted, there’s nothing like a short period without posting a photo of yourself and weaning yourself off all the likes and comments,” Ms Aitken said. “It builds and becomes so self-reinforcing.
“There’s nothing like a little self-abstinence for a while.”