Don't we all have that friend(s) or even relatives, nowadays, who we follow on social media sites for their constant posts selfies? If you know what I’m talking about, you may also know about this thing you're actually after- selfies.
For the less fortunate ones who still don't know about 'selfies' and prefer to live on 'Mars' or whatever other planet they are from, let me conjure up a definition in brief.
Selfies are photos of a person which usually consist of up-close angles of a person’s face. The term selfie has become so immersed in our daily use vocabularies now, that not only has it officially entered into the Oxford English Dictionary, but “selfie” was Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2013. It is described as when an individual holds a camera or smartphone at arm’s length and takes a picture of their face. But honestly, some of these may come across as awkward. There tend to be various poses including the discrete pouting, the 'duck' face or lips pose, the funny-trying-to-be-cute face, etc.
Did you know, on Instagram alone, the hashtag “selfie” has a total of 103,363,215 images tagged? Plus I'm not even including the pictures on private accounts. A couple of hours later, more 50,000 selfie images had been uploaded in just that time frame. These overwhelming numbers can be seen as evidence for something that can be labelled as more of a global phenomenon.
Moreover, Selfies have been glamorized by high-profile names from pop-star Justin Bieber to comedienne Ellen Degeneres to President Obama. Plus, people now have the option to choose pictures or edit them to their liking and upload on popular media sites like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, etc.
What is the need of selfies?
All lot of people, especially women, claim to want to share their experiences with friends and family. Others post an excessive amount of selfies only to feed their narcissism and seek attention. For example, someone who may have recently broke up with his/her partner has been usually found to upload more selfies than before. Psychologically speaking, I think that now that they are single, they want to draw attention because of losing someone important or even to otherwise make them jealous of what they lost. In either case, when a relationship ends, we tend to feel vulnerable and need some form of reassurance and comfort. It is interesting to note the kind of circumstances that may lead people to focus more on social media. Now, we have the option to control the way we want to be seen through pictures, and with the smart phones and digicams at our disposal, we can transform ourselves into whoever we want to be.
So what is the problem with selfies anyways?
Selfies were never an issue when they first started gaining popularity, but now that social media is a part of our daily lives, there have been more and more notable-cum-numerous cases of selfie obsession gone wrong, not to mention the misuse of so many thus uploaded personal pictures, especially of women, by hackers, pimps and stalkers.
Here are few examples of how the focus on taking the perfect selfie can be taken to alarming extreme.
According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 1 in 3 surgeons surveyed have mentioned that requests for surgery have increased because people want to appear better on social media. Triana Lavey, a reality TV producer,used Photoshop apps like Perfect365 to enhance her appearance on social media but she still hated her look, so she made the drastic decision to go under the knife. ABC News reported that Lavey spent $15,000 on plastic surgery, having chin and nose surgery, fat grafting, and Botox injections. Lavey’s experience highlights how people have become obsessed with being “Insta-celebrities,” and how a selfie determines your status in that social world, sic.
19 year old Danny Bowman, an aspiring model, is another example of selfies getting to an unhealthy level. At the age of 15, Bowman became obsessed with his looks after people made critical comments about his appearance on Facebook. He resorted to dieting, to skipping classes so that he could take selfies without being interrupted, and then dropped out of school completely. In his obsession, he did not leave his home for six months where he would spend 10 hours a day taking up to 200 selfies. After failing to capture “the perfect selfie” he became so depressed that he attempted suicide. Thankfully, Bowman’s mother found him just in time to get him to the hospital.
But the worst example of this so called 'Selfie Mania' has to be of Courtney Sanford, 32 year old American woman who died in head-on collision seconds after uploading selfies of herself while driving and ‘happy’ status to Facebook to go with it. Turns out she wasn't careful enough to keel her eyes on the road and then she herself had to 'go'. Pun intended.
According to psychiatrists, every two out of three of all patients with Body Dysmorphic Disorder(BDD) since the rise of camera phones have compulsions to repeatedly take selfies. That does not mean people who often take pictures of themselves have BDD, but when this practice gets out of control, it’s clear that there are some issues taking place in the background. Selfies frequently trigger perceptions of self-indulgence or attention seeking social dependence including narcissism to raise very low self-esteem. Basing their self-esteem on how many likes they have is a way for people to feed their ego. By all this, if it doesn't work out for certain people, social media is also feeding their feelings of inferiority.
Self-esteem is a very broad term for how good or bad we feel about ourselves, and it can generally vary as per time. For example, if you fail a test it may be upsetting, but ultimately a grade doesn’t determine who you are. People who have low self-esteem commonly have a very pessimistic outlook and are often quite self-critical, withdrawn socially, and are overwhelmed with feelings of inferiority. A person with low self-esteem may place importance on their looks, thinking that taking and posting selfies will help them feel better. So they rather don't focus on more important ways of changing their negative self-image such as self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-respect which is undesirable.
Albeit, not all people struggle with low self-esteem, it should be a reminder that what we see on social media- the beauty, the money, the glamour, the fake attitudes- are not the real things that give life a meaning. What people post is actually an illusion, only carved to to put people down. Sure, we see the rich and famous post pictures that can make anyone just a little jealous, but comparing ourselves to others will not fulfill us at the end of the day. Besides, the harm of hacking and stalking and gross misuse of our rather 'prized' selfies still lurks on. So in general, better be mindful of the reasons behind posting any picture on social networks, be it selfies or otherwise. Its always better to refrain from doing so for the ladies, for not just physical reasons, but also spiritual ones. If only people loved themselves the way they are and would be wise enough to keep it to themselves, too!
Dr. Aafreen Kotadiya