Kiara Marsh

I live in Nebraska, US. My ultimate dream is to be on the NYTBL. Not sure if that will happen though.

The Selfie: Device for self-expression or narcissism?

March 17, 2015

The Selfie. Whether it’s the classic mirror-in-the-bathroom, the duck face, or the “I’m trying to look like I’m having fun but that may or may not be true” pose; we’ve seen them, and they often bombard our news feed on social media. The question is: What’s the reasoning for this phenomenon? Are we teenagers trying to call attention to, or express ourselves? I think the selfie can potentially be used as a fantastic form of self-expression, however it is often put in the wrong hands and used as a device of narcissism. First, we’ll turn on the lights and see the possible effects of chronic selfie-taking, we’ll then adjust our lense and look at what our selfies say about us, and finally we’ll pose the question: Do selfies really matter?

Everyone and their mother has a smartphone these days; making it perfectly easy to pull it out and snap a pic, but what happens when this simple tasks takes up most of our time? The answer is chronic selfie-taking. In the Personality and Individual Differences journal published on January 7th, 2015, a study said that men who reportedly took extra time to edit the selfies they took before posting them also exhibited above-average levels of self-objectification. Which, quite literally means they see themselves as objects; whether it be for sex, romance, or whatever else.. It is this way of thinking that can lead to things like eating disorders and severe depression. Ohio State University’s “State of the Selfie Report” suggests that excessive selfie-taking may point to this: People who overload Social Media with selfies are more likely to exhibit psychopathic or narcissistic qualities than those who don’t. However, this research is not about men alone. Approximately 62% more females take selfies than men in New York alone.

The American Psychiatric Association has released research that links selfies to a mental disorder known as selfitis. It is defined as “the obsessive compulsive desire to take photos of one’s self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem and to fill a gap in intimacy.” However, there is no information that supports this notion. The research was a hoax, and yet it turned out to be more interesting than the actual hoax in itself. It’s very eye opening as well. We all know that each and every picture we post and its caption is meticulously calculated and we feel more and more validation for every like we get and they make us feel better about ourselves, even if just a little bit, even if we show the internet our best bits and it doesn’t even come close to telling the full story of our lives.

We’ve now reflected the behavior that can potentially happen in excessive self-portrait taking. Now, let’s look at what our selfies really say about us. What’s your go-to selfie pose? Is it a half smile? Sticking your tongue out? Whatever it is, it says something about you, where you are, or what you’re doing. A study done by SelfieCity found that you’re more likely to be smiling in a selfie in Bangkok or São Paulo than you are in Berlin or Moscow. This study looked at other variables as well, just as how much a person tilted their head, how big their smile is, etc. The Pew Research Center found that of the 73 percent of American adults who use social networks, the majority are young and well-educated. In addition, they found 70 percent of American Internet users use the Selfie-hub of Instagram, while in most other countries, it’s not as popular. The question is: What do we care about more; Our homerun, our trip to the Taj Mahal, or how people will perceive our duck faces?

So, we’ve looked at what our selfies say about us, now, finally we can ask: Why are selfies important?  Developmentally, selfies are simple to children and teens- they make sense to us. As we are trying to figure out who we are, they serve as a way to test our appearance, and we now feel in those certain outfits, make-up, etc.(the more likes my selfie gets, the more often I’m going to wear my hair that way, wear that outfit, and so on.) This however does not make every selfie okay. For example, if you post a duck face,(and you’re not the type of person that would post this type of picture ironically.) I’m very likely to quickly scroll past it and gouck in disgust and if that’s every picture you post, I’m probably going to unfollow you. However, if on while on instagram you post pictures of your friends at social gathering and the occasion solo selfie, I’ll most likely get behind you.

Pre-teens don’t tend to understand that birdies and duck faces aren’t that socially acceptable anymore, like we teens do. Like every limitation a child will stretch with their parents; the adults need to help them learn what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Sure, by now, we teens have that figured out, but the generation that’s currently growing doesn’t necessarily. We only have awareness within the context of our experience. In my opinion, it comes down to this: Does your selfie say: “I’m comfortable with my body.”, “I want you to tell me what you like about my body.”, or “I may not have the best looking body, but I don’t care!”

We have now turned on the lights to see the effects chronic selfie-taking may have, adjusted our lenses to look at what our selfies have to say about us, posed and answered the question: Why are selfies important? In my opinion, selfies can potentially be a very useful tool in self-expression, however, more often than not, they are used incorrectly and manifest narcissism.


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