Selfie Psychology 101
Selfies. The mere word draws a massive collective eyeroll from most social media users, second only to your friends that share over twelve cute cat videos a day. Selfitis is a term floating around for people who have a selfie affliction, an obsession with posting selfies for an affirmation of their worth in the universe. But are selfies all bad? Before you answer with a sarcastic “are you kidding me?”, hear me out.
According to some in the psychology profession, and some bloggers who think they are shrinks, an obsession with selfies stems from a lack of confidence and a need to be popular. The cycle goes like this: post a cute selfie, get fifty likes and some comments of “you are so pretty!” and you feel pretty good about yourself. So you post another, and then another. The selfie obsessed need this external affirmation to feel good about themselves, and so it becomes a real need. It’s beginning to sound like an episode of Dr. Phil, right? But before you plan a TV intervention for your BFF, maybe it’s not always bad. Maybe having a little attention can do someone good.
I will speak from experience as someone who has seven hundred Facebook selfie profile photos, a few fans, and probably more haters, but through it all has gained more self-confidence and a whole lot less concern for what other people think.
Up until about seven years ago, there was probably only about thirty photos of me in existence, and fifteen of those were when I was a kid. I hated my photos. I hated the double chin, I hated my nose, I just hated me in photos. That was back in the day when you took a photo, that was it. No photoshop, no digital fix (can you even fathom it?). When digital SLR cameras came out, I got one so I could torture my kids with endless photos. Then I dabbled in photography as a living. I did all traditional black and white film photos, hand painted. While I loved it, it was very time consuming and I made no money off it, so I started doing all digital work. Then comes along PHOTOSHOP. The first time I fixed someone’s acne-ridden face to look magazine-cover-perfect, I was hooked. In order to hone my skills, I started taking selfies to practice on. I mean, if I could fix such horrible things as my double chin and as a bonus smooth some wrinkles, then I was gonna be in hot demand as a photographer. At this point, after being a hold out for some time, I joined Facebook. Well, you need a profile pic right? Lord knows it has to be good; I mean, there are old high school friends on there that for some reason you still care about what they think. So, I started dabbling in selfies. First just basic deer-in-the-headlights novice ones, then I got bored (along with my followers) and decided to go creative and try to be the crazy funny one. I even did a 365-day project, taking a new photo every day of the year. I had some friends with negative attitudes, wondering why I was “attention seeking”, and had many friends offer encouragement, that they looked forward to my next crazy photo.
Here’s the thing. Along the way I actually DID gain some confidence. You could say, as some of the internet wannabe Sigmund Freuds would, that it was confidence gained in a negative way. That it is based on superficiality and not on something deeper. All I know is that a few years ago I wouldn’t have dared put a photo up on the internet. A few years ago, I also worried more about what people thought about me. There are obviously other factors involved including my age and the older I get the more I don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks. But I credit my selfies with having more confidence to put myself out there, for good or bad.
So, while some may have some psychological issues that make taking selfies a negative thing, before you assume every selfie freak needs to lay on a couch spilling their guts for eighty dollars an hour, it may not be the terrible epidemic that it is made out to be. My advice? If it makes you happy, then get a phone with a front facing camera, a ten dollar selfie stick and a good editing app.