What’s Wrong with Selfies?

    Selfie. It was the 2013 Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year, they are what dominate Instagram feeds, and they are stirring up quite a bit of controversy.

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    Many say that selfies are empowering. To some, selfies may be a way to express confidence in one’s own skin. Dove’s latest installment in their Campaign for Real Beauty includes a short film, Selfie, claiming that social media is “widening the definition of what beauty is.”

    Others, including many psychology experts I spoke to, believe selfies can turn into a harmful act of obsessing over our looks, reinforcing the desire to look “perfect.”

    I’ll be upfront and say that I don’t find myself standing strongly on either side of the debate. I started taking selfies in middle school, during the Myspace era; I would change my profile picture nearly every week. Fast forward a decade, and I’m still taking selfies… usually when I want to show you guys my makeup of the day, or I’m just feeling great and want to capture it! But, I agree that both good and bad can come of any and all trends. I think I’ve mentioned on my blog before that when I was much younger, I actually photoshopped my own selfies. I would fix the bump in my nose, lift my double chin, and tuck in my tummy. This is where the problem starts.

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    Windy weather selfie

    Social media gives us the power to control how we are perceived, and more often than not, we choose to share the pictures that would shine us in the best light. I reached out to experts and asked: are selfies harmful or helpful for an individual’s self image?

    “As with so many things it is a matter of degree— one selfie here and there every few weeks is a non-starter. But by and large, selfies become a way for a person to scrutinize, twist and turn themselves to get that perfect angle and critique themselves,” says Dr. Ramani Durvasula, licensed clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology.

    With the rise of selfies has come the rise of hundreds of new smartphone apps that work to give us flawless skin, makeup, and even make us look thinner in our instaphotos with a touch of a button. (Where were these when I was spending hours learning how to use photoshop?) All kidding aside, now there is a new avenue of pressure to make us feel that even our unedited, #nofilter selfies are not enough to be beautiful the way they are.

    Adrienne Ressler, eating disorder and body image specialist at The Renfew Center Foundation agrees.

    “We feel pressured to edit and alter our images so we look like what we think of as our best selves instead of our real selves. The concern is that these social media habits can fuel negative self-esteem or body image issues, setting the stage for addictions or other destructive behaviors, such as eating disorders. The high is never high enough, the scale is never low enough and the image posted on social media is never good enough.”

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    Dawnn Karen, founder of the Fashion Psychology field, points out the underlying need for affirmation shown by posting selfies. “This validation is given through likes and comments. If someone receives the validation sought, it can be empowering. However, it can become problematic when one does not receive validation; it can be disempowering to the ego,” she explains. Psychologist Frank Bevacqua, Ph.D. agrees this is the most dangerous factor of them all.

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    Obligatory yoga mat selfie

    We now put our worth in others’ hands. How many likes or shares or comments a photo of us gets means the more popular we are, the more we are liked, or the better we look. No longer does our self-esteem actually come from ourselves, our self-esteem can now only come from the approval of others. A new haircut, a new outfit, or a new body (someone who has lost weight or gotten work done) now must be shared with hundreds of acquaintances and potentially thousands of strangers. Even if I like my new haircut, outfit, or body, it does not become validated until others validate it for me.”

    Everything considered, I personally don’t think selfies will pose a threat to your well-being when done in moderation. The main point being: don’t let others’ validation be the motivation for how or why you choose to display yourself. I enjoy capturing a great picture of myself as much as the next person (what, you couldn’t tell by the accompanying photos in this article?). I think selfies have the ability to tell a story, to share something about ourselves to the world. However, I do recognize that when done excessively, taking and sharing selfies have the potential to damage our self esteem and diminish body positivity.

    What say you? Are you pro-selfie, no-selfie, or in the middle of the road like I am?

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    49 COMMENTS

    1. Excellent post, Miranda! I think I’m like you.. I loathe when people are constantly posting selfies of themselves and there is nothing noteworthy about it, if that makes sense. But if it’s for blogging or showing off makeup or hairstyles, then I’m all for it. Idk, maybe I’m just weird LOL.

    2. It’s so hard to pick where I stand on this because I do want a selfie whenever I’m out which is often, but then I do pick myself apart. I have a harder time with full size body pictures because I find 100X imperfections as for a selfie all you see is a face

    3. I wrote a post on “Selfie photos” that need to stop not too long ago, no pun intended. Okay w/ pun for the most part, haha! I take selfies myself but as with anything, excessive selfies can be a nuisance.

    4. I’m a selfie fanatic. It might come off as a bit self absorbed but honestly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Anything that helps you feel beautiful is a thumbs up in my book.

    5. I love selfies… on other people. 🙂 I see nothing wrong with them, unless you go overboard. Back to the age old saying… “Everything in moderation.”

    6. I’m pro-selfie but I think the problem is that a lot of people believe that the selfie is used to get a sense of validation from others and I know from many people that’s not true. I think there’s a school of thought that if you post something online, it’s for a response but it brings about the perspective that someone (the implication is always teenage girls, and it’s always a negative one) can’t post a picture of themselves for themselves. It’s true that when you post something online, someone will inevitably comment or criticize you for it but I think it goes too far to presume that it’s just for validation when it could just be for self-love

    7. Awesome Awesome Post. I am Pro-Selfie… but after doing a “You are Beautiful” conference at a local high school recently, I spoke with a few girls who say that they feel a need to be perfect now that social media is everywhere. I think there is a fine line… and most definitely should be done because you love to do it and share instead of looking for the popularity aspect of it. It’s hard when the community in a whole can be so terrible sometimes. I don’t edit my images on instagram – or anywhere else so that it makes me look different then I am… scarring, wrinkles and all… I don’t even use foundation… so to me, I just enjoy doing them because its fun 😉

    8. I’m pro-selfie, but anti-flawless. I love browsing fun FOTDs and EOTDs on Instagram, and I love seeing imperfections, too – that’s what makes people unique. I have facial scars and I never Photoshop them out, just like I would never blur my skin to make it look perfect. People aren’t idiots, they see right through all that editing.

    9. The only time I get annoyed with selfies is if the person is taking 10-20 selfies a day in which they’re all making a duck face but using a different filter. Those people get blocked and only because I can’t smack them upside the head. Other than that, selfie on.

    10. I’m okay with selfies if its for a purpose. Examples: new hair, cool makeup, visiting a new place, etc… I HATE it when people take a picture of themselves in the car every single day just because they want comments.

    11. Against, U got a new hair cut great lets do a selfie before you leave the beauty salon, cause if you live in place with much wind like I do that beautiful haird do wont last 10 minutes.
      But every single moment, Is not my cup of tea I dont like it
      And selfies I have seen I guess if that self-esteem of something else. Some I have seen have gone to far, almost naked screaming for attention. A selfie in a right moment can be great but the whole time no.

    12. I love selfies but I’m self conscious that others will think I’m narcissistic when I post them so I don’t do them often!

    13. I don’t have strong feelings about selfies one way or another, but if you’ve ever looked at my Instagram then it’s pretty obvious that I’m not always putting my “best” face forward – haha. Psychologically speaking, I don’t know that seeing photos of beautiful people on the internet is any worse than seeing them in magazines or on TV or whatever – I don’t think it helps, but the core cause of self-esteem issues probably lies elsewhere.

      That said, those “skin-perfecting” apps are weeeeeeird. Completely flawless/poreless skin makes you look like an alien. O_O

    14. Selfies and photos come with the territory of being a blogger! I will say, though, that I am glad that I was older and more confident when social media boomed. I can only imagine what it must be like for the younger generation to live their formative years online.

    15. It always amazes me at how many times people delete and retake pictures because they want to get the best possible picture to post on facebook.

    16. I’ll take a selfie here and there, but there are those people who take one every 10 minutes and post to instagram… self-absorbed much? The people who use filters and photoshop like apps to get flawless skin etc bore me. Be yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin.

    17. Photographing ones self is healthy, normal, artistic, empowering, unique, etc. So many positives to showing yourself off in your best frame or even in your most natural #nofilter state, even if they go unshared or unseen, it gives you the moment to reflect on yourself and love yourself. The negatives only come from those who already need more self love, and that’s a whole other topic. I’d say I’m pro-selfie… pro-be-proud-of-yourself 🙂

      • Yes definitely, I think no filter, no editing selfies can certainly be empowering, but when a selfie that has been turned upside down from an editing app gets a lot of positive affirmation, that could send the wrong message about the poster’s natural looks.

        • Well, that is on the personal confidence level of the person posting that highly altered image. They obviously need more love and attention, sadly without them being honest, they’ll only hurt themselves more by creating a higher physical standard. That would bring us to an even bigger issue of girls – and boys – feeling the urge to “fit in”, “look perfect”, etc. An epidemic of young lives not feeling good enough and wanting to be “perfect” because media makes them feel like they need to be. If we focused on encouraging #nofilter selfies, would it boost viewers into being proud of their uniqueness and “flaws”? Or make them nervous and resort to secretive editing anyways?

    18. Interesting post. I think you’re right, the problem is when we download one of the many editing apps available and “perfect” ourselves. I do selfies mostly for blogging purposes to show off new makeup/lip/etc. And I will try to find the most flattering pose, I won’t just take a selfie and be done, I will take it until I’m happy with it. I’m on the fence whether that’s silly or part of the problem, or just all part of wanting to put my best foot forward

    19. You are totally right. I dont think selfies pose a threat to my life either. However I do know some people get very offended when they post a selfie and get 3 likes on instgram, where their dog picture gets like 50 likes. It is totally the sense of approval from peers and self affirmation. great post girl!!!

    20. This is a new digital era so by now most people of our generation have embraced the selfie in some way, whether as an individual or a group photo. I have nothing against it, personally.

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