Self-expression on social media is integral of the world we live in. With over 1 billion Facebook users, 400 million Instagram users and 305 million active Twitter users worldwide, if you are not on a social network you are certainly the exception rather than the rule.
With an increased accessibility to smartphones over recent years, being part of the social world is irresistible.
The term selfie has even made it to the dictionary;
‘A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.’
There is even research being done to investigate this phenomenon. Acting as a self-announcement a selfie allows people to explore their individuality and create a narrative for their friends and followers (Davis, 2013).
The dark side of the selfie
But we cannot ignore the dark side, the selfish motivation; to seek approval of one’s physical appearance from his or her peers in the form of likes and comments (Kuo et al., 2013).
Major cultural influencers such as Kim Kardashian are admired for their selfie ability and are publishing books based on the matter (Kim Kardashian – Selfish). Furthermore, the introduction of products such as the Selfie Stick even suggest the developing lucrative market for the selfie revolution.
Snapchat has unquestionably been a major catalyst in the rise of popularity of the selfie. Every month the app administers another reason to capture a selfie i.e. Lenses, Geo-Filters, Filters, Video.
But surely this increase in digital narcissism is having an impact on us psychologically?
A study conducted by Wickel (2015) suggested 97.8% of participants believed someone’s popularity is actually based upon how many likes or comments they obtain on a profile picture or status update. Whilst 90.2% reported the sole reason for posting pictures of themselves online is to receive likes and comments (Wickel, 2015) digital validation is central to a person’s self-confidence.
Additionally, research has revealed psychopathy (impulsivity and lack of self-control; Paulhus et al., 2010) and narcissism were both associated with the number of selfies people posted, whilst self-objectification and narcissism forecasted the amount of editing photographs received (Fox & Rooney, 2015). Narcissism can be defined as “incessantly pursue adoration from others, and to participate in egotistical thinking and behaviour” (Wickel, 2013).
Interestingly, research has found an increase in levels of narcissism in Millennials (people born after 1980; Bergman et al., 2011). Hence, this raises the question whether there is in fact an association between the two. But what comes up, the link between narcissism and depression strengthens. Self-worth has become dependent upon constant external affirmation; hence people’s true self becomes neglected in favour of something they want to be, yet cannot attain (Anastasopoulos, 2007). During adolescence exploration for identity is even more vulnerable, gen – y are in trouble.
The reality is despite appearing harmless, we must be mindful of the psychological influence the ‘selfie world’ could be having not only on ourselves, but younger generations. Over the next decade it can be expected that a clinical social media psychological disorder could exist.
But are we becoming too apprehensive of our selfie-interest? We are not the first generation to feel the need to have images of ourselves around our social network. It could be said that the human race has always been obsessed with themselves;
Ancient Egypt: Immortal depictions of the Pharaohs created as status symbols and buried with them.
18th century: Massive paintings of ourselves around our stately homes of which all our party guests could sit and admire just how beautiful we are.
20th century: Book a professional photographer to take pictures of you and your family to have them placed all around your house, in which your friends and family will come round to view.
The desire for humans to express themselves through self-portraits has been a constant for decades. Perhaps all that has changed is the technological distribution of them within our social circles.
Today: Pick up phone. Take a selfie. Share with friends and family on social media.
So where do you stand? Are you pro selfie? Or would you much rather see what’s on the other side of the camera?
Agger, B. (2014) Hegel’s Internet, dicClosure. 47-64.
Anastasopoulos, D. (2007). The narcissism of depression or the depression of narcissism and adolescence. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 33, 345-362.
Bergman, S. M., Fearrington, M. E., Davenport, S. W., & Bergman, J. Z. (2011). Millennials, narcissism, and social networking: What narcissists do on social networking sites and why. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 706-711.
Davis, T. (2013). Portrait of the Artist. 50-55.
Fox, J., & Rooney, M. C. (2015). The Dark Triad and trait self-objectification as predictors of men’s use and self-presentation behaviors on social networking sites. Personality and Individual Differences, 76, 161-165.
Kuo, F.Y, Tsend, C.Y, Tsenf, F.C. & L, C.S. (2013) A study of social information control affordnaces and Gender Difference in Facebook self-presentation. Cyberpsychology, Bheaviour and Social Networking, 16, 635-644.
Paulhus, D. L., Neumann, C. S., & Hare, R. D. (2010). Manual for the self-report psychopathy scale. Toronto, Canada: Multi-Health Systems.
Wickel, T. M. (2015). Narcissism and Social Networking Sites: The Act of Taking Selfies. Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications,6.
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