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Are Selfies Unhealthy?

By Edited Oct 1, 2015 1 2
Selfies, selfies everywhere
Credit: Morguefile photo by xenia

The Rise of Narcissism

I like to write about malignant narcissism because it's a modern epidemic. Also, I've had personal experience with someone who seems to fall along this spectrum.

About one out of every 25 people have this personality disorder, which leaves them totally self absorbed, to the point where they have no regard for anyone else.

They are extremely challenged in the empathy department. They are not troubled by the usual regrets most of us would have if we hurt someone else. Consequently, people with such a serious character flaw typically leave a trail of destruction, wherever they go.

Some social scientists have been troubled by what appears to be a rising tide of narcissism among young adults. Jean Twenge, PhD, has studied this phenomenon and came to the disturbing conclusion, based on questionnaire results, that college students now score higher in narcissistic traits than they did a generation ago, according to an article in the New York Times.

Also, social media sites might be contributing to the problem, by allowing people to lavish so much attention on themselves, according to a book Dr. Twenge wrote, entitled, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in an Age of Entitlement.

Do You Know What a Selfie Is?

Lately, there's been a new twist that's hit Facebook hard. This is the "selfie." Even though people have been snapping pictures of themselves and posting them on the Internet for a number of years, lately, the term seems to have taken on a life of its own.

For those of you unfamiliar with this behavior, it means a self portrait taken from one's cell phone or iPad. These are often put on the Internet, for the world to see.

At first glance, this might be seen as just harmless fun. However, some problems are also beginning to emerge, as this trend, which accelerated in 2013, begins to mature.

Some teenagers are beginning to get obsessed with taking head shots of themselves. They do so repeatedly. One British teenager even attempted suicide because he couldn't get the perfect photo, despite hundreds of efforts, as was reported in another media outlet.

The Age of Entitlement

In her book, Dr. Twenge chronicles how we're raising our children to believe they're so special they deserve whatever they desire. She even points out how some parents are now funding breast augmentation surgery for their teenage daughters. The number of girls having their breasts enlarged jumped 55 percent in just one year, she notes.

This obsession with ourselves, she believes, results in unhealthy individuals who make bad choices, such as going deeply into debt because they want the best of everything, and they want it now.

She believes society is fueling this sickness. So are parenting and educational styles aimed at excessively boosting a child's self esteem. All of this has been way too much of a good thing, and we're now seeing the end results. These include "incivility" and "exhibitionism," she writes.

Recognizing the epidemic of narcissism is the first step toward correcting it, according to Dr. Twenge.

The Rise of Selfies

If you're guilty of putting some selfies up on Facebook or another social media outlet, you're certainly not alone. Right now, 60 percent of women have done the same thing recently, according to an article published in Psychology Today. The article pointed out that new technology such as SmartPhones now makes it easier than ever to snap a selfie.

With this same device, you can also immediately post it on Facebook. It's so easy, that you can do this many times a day, and let the world know exactly what you are doing at any given moment.

The Psychology Today piece also pointed out that having self portraits commissioned is nothing new. In an earlier age, this is what a lot of wealthy people did, perhaps because they didn't want to be forgotten by the world when they are no longer around.

However, Dr. Pamela Rutledge, PhD., the author of this article, titled, Positively Media, doesn't criticize this trend. She believes these photographs helps people stay connected with one another, and she cited several potential benefits of posting selfies.

The majority of women now post selfies online
Credit: Morguefile photo by xenia

The Potential Benefits of Selfies

According to Dr. Rutledge, selfies may help young people get to know themselves and others better by being able to show different sides of yourself, such as a happy, outgoing person being able to post a photo of themselves in a more pensive mode.

She also believes they are more realistic than studio portraits and may also help us move beyond the need to always have the perfect body. These self-shots are often snapped when we're not looking our best, and may not always show us in the most flattering of angles.

The rise of selfies seems to be a harmless trend, according to Dr. Rutledge.

So, if you don't like it, just wait it out. This too shall pass.



Apr 19, 2014 3:07pm
Yes, it is another fad that will pass. I didn't even know what a "selfie" was until Ellen did so on the Oscar show. I think that accelerated the fad. I have no desire to follow this latest trend.
Apr 19, 2014 3:26pm
Hi Joane, I feel exactly the same way. I don't want to contribute to this trend.
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