Cameras on smartphones are considered to be practical by many, but while being able to shoot a snapshot anytime, anywhere is convenient and fun, for some it may also promote narcissism. Fueled by technology, the selfie is a trend that is undeniable. With over 55 million Instagram posts, labeled as #selfie, there is no doubt that it had to be the Word of the Year in 2013. The Oxford Dictionary defines a selfie as “a photograph that one takes of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam and posted onto social media websites.”
Selfies are mainly popular among teenagers, but they are also becoming increasingly popular among adults. Stephanie Eads, a 35-year-old receptionist, takes several photos of herself every day. At least one of those photos will make it to her Facebook profile. Eads considers the selfie a way to share her life with her family, who lives far away. “I will post a selfie if I have a new haircut or makeup, but I also post selfies when someone is in a bad mood. It is my way to cheer them up, it makes me feel good and I enjoy getting in front of the cameras,” she says.
John Casey, a 57-year-old procurement contract specialist, has been posting selfies to his Facebook profile every Saturday for the past four years. He says he loves the ritual and with an average of 50 likes and comments per selfie, it gives him a good feeling. “It is cool when people say nice things about your photo and people who have been reticent to talk to me, will more likely come up to me now,” Casey says.
Psychologists have mixed theories about the selfie. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Boston, thinks selfies are not only an interesting psychological shift in self-portraiture, but also in relationships people have with themselves. Rutledge says, “Selfies allow people to be the director, producer and actor at the same time. It is used to show off looks as well as the state the person is in at that moment. It is visual storytelling with smartphone cameras and it is fun.”
Soraya Mehdizadeh, a psychological researcher who conducted the study by using the Narcissism Personality Inventory and Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, measured the Facebook activities of 100 college students. Her findings show that the cameras students have access to on their smartphones may result in too many selfies, thus causing a certain level of narcissism, but at the same time it may also cause low self-esteem. According to Mehdizadeh, students with low self-esteem easily spend at least one hour on Facebook every day, taking selfies, editing them, posting them and checking their profile to see if they have received likes and comments. Not only can this promote narcissism, but it may also be that the person’s real identity does not match their virtual identity due to the fact that people are in control of what they share.
For 15-year-old Caitlin Cozine, selfies are nothing but a way to have fun with her friends. She says, “It improves your social status and it makes you feel good to read nice comments. But I do think selfies are only good in moderation. Otherwise, it looks like you’re fishing for compliments.”
Researchers in the United Kingdom agree with Cozine, stating that too many selfies may damage relationships and self-esteem, as family and friends may get bored if a person shares too many selfies. The researchers, on the other hand, state that getting too many likes and comments on selfies taken with smartphone cameras may result in over-confidence and therefore may promote narcissism. The researchers consider this to be problematic especially for teenagers.
By Diana Herst