Monday, May 9, 2016

On Selfies

In 2013, the word "selfie" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary, a sign that selfies - a photo taken of oneself - were becoming so common as to enter our vernacular. Scrolling through Facebook, you'll see them everywhere. Even my parents know the meaning of the word selfie, and nearly all of friends take them to varying degrees. I try, but I'll be honest - I'm awful at taking selfies.

Source: Moderately Confused
But what does taking selfies say about us? If you Google "psychology of selfies," you'll find tons of articles about the correlation between taking selfies and narcissism. On the other hand, people like me who have to take tons of selfies before finding one I actually like, may have Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Wonderful.</sarcasm>

But are selfies really a sign of mental disorder? First, studies examining the relationship between selfie-taking and negative traits have found small to modest correlations. So there's a relationship there, but there are likely many other things that explain selfie-taking more strongly. Second, one could argue that selfies are simply a new approach to a rather old artistic approach: the self portrait.

Self portraits - in painting form - became common during the Early Renaissance, in part because of more widespread availability of inexpensive mirrors. Artists viewed self portraits as a form of advertisement - not only to see what the artist looks like but to show skill. The invention of photography made self portraiture more approachable, but still mainly for artists.

Until now. Now that people have ready access to cameras, and now that they are small enough to fit in one hand, it's understandable that even non-artists would want to join in on this medium.

Not only are they easier to take, selfies are a way to see yourself the way other people see you. Obviously, this could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whether you like what you see.

This approach also allows you to have photos of yourself in situations where you usually want a photo taken, such as when you're visiting a new place, without having to stop random people and ask them to take a picture. Or for situations where you may have wanted a photo taken, such as after getting ready for a night out, but haven't had anyone around to take one for you. So selfies could just be a reflection of independence - wanting to do things oneself - combined with the ease of taking such photos due to improvements of technology.

Even if there is a relationship between selfies and characteristics like narcissism, as selfies become more common (to the point that nearly everyone is taking them), that relationship will become smaller and smaller. In fact, one could argue that once just about anything enters the mainstream, it no longer correlates with personality traits.

What are you thoughts on selfies? Let us know in comments!

1 comment:

  1. My thoughts on selfies: Ugh. I'd rather take/see photos of interesting places. I know what I look like, and my real friends don't need a constant reminder--even on days when I'm looking particularly good. Perhaps social media has (tried to) condition us to seek external approval more often? I think the need for constant reminders of how gorgeous we are is a bit sick and sad.
    @RhondaGilmour from
    Late Blooming Rose