Selfie- harmful or harmless?

The first recognised case of selfie addiction was cited in 2014, where a 19 year old boy spent 10 hours a day taking up to 200 pictures of himself and got so obsessed with taking the perfect picture that he became suicidal. He went to rehab for his addiction and has since been selfie free.

It seems selfies are on the increase and can become strangely addictive.

Are Selfies a sign of narcissism?

Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Boston, calls selfies a “really interesting psychological shift” in self-portraiture and in our relationships with ourselves. “Selfies allow you to be the producer, director, curator and actor in your own story,” says Rutledge.

She also points out that while selfies raise the risk of narcissism, it may only be because there is not yet a widespread, well-established context for their use. She says that taking selfies may indeed be normal and natural, but because society has not yet collectively been able to contextualize the place selfies are supposed to hold, they have been labeled as being narcissistic and therefore can cause feelings of narcissism in those who take them.

However, it has been proven by multiple studies that interacting with other types of social media is definitively linked to narcissism, depression, low self esteem, addiction and a host of other negative effect. For example, Facebook use has been linked to depression while Twitter use has been linked to low self esteem and narcissism.

When we get so distracted by the marketing of ourselves, we can lose touch with our authentic identities and struggle to build real relationships, says Lucie Hemmen, a clinical psychologist.

So it seems the jury is out on whether selfies are dangerous for our mental health, only time may tell. Personally I fear that selfies may ironically erode our sense of self instead of bolstering it, as we attempt to potentially project a false self out into the world, hoping for some sign of acceptance. I fear this especially for the younger generation who are more impressionable and are still forming their identities through the use and experimentation of social media.

Is our photo obsession harming our health?

A recent psychological study has shown that when people photograph an object, it erodes their memory. The professor who led the study commented that it was like people subconsciously relied on the photograph to do the remembering for them, taking a photo was a cue to dismiss and forget. This makes me think of the Aboriginal belief that taking a photograph of a person, erodes a part of their soul. It certainly seems that taking photos may diminish our memory, which I see as a key part of our identity.

As a society, for me, we seem increasingly to be unable to live in the moment.

I recall a concert I went to a few years ago with a friend who insisted on filming and photographing every moment. I felt sad for her at the concert, there was a sense of real desperation from her about getting the photo/film instead of enjoying the experience, not to mention it reduced my own enjoyment of the show as I was unable to properly connect with her in the moment as she always had her phone to her face.

I was reading an interview with artist, Venetia Scott who agreed with my thoughts no this. Scott comments that “when everyone is constantly looking at their devices, you don’t feel they’re present…if you’re busy thinking about the picture you’re taking…, you miss the excitement.”

So next time to stop to take a selfie, pause for thought before you click.

Photo by Colin N on Unsplash

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