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  • Staci-lee Sherwood

Living in the age of the selfie

Updated: Oct 8, 2021


Photo by Cristina Zaragoza on Unsplash


By Staci-lee Sherwood


It wasn’t that long ago that people had to actually wait several hours, sometimes days, to see the photos they had taken with a camera. Now that we’re in the digital age the notion of waiting more than the few seconds it takes to upload a photo is unfathomable for anyone under 30. We are living in the era of instant; instant coffee, instant drive in food, instant photos. The whole world is at the touch of our fingers without the wait. But is that a good thing ? Have we lost something in the pursuit of speed ?


The word selfie didn’t even exist until 2002. The origins trace back to an Australian man, Nathan Hope, who got drunk on his 21st birthday and posted a picture of his stitched lip with the caption “sorry about the focus, it was a selfie”That is how is all started.In simple terms its meaning describes a self portrait.One could argue that painters were doing selfies centuries ago and while the concept is true the obsessive nature behind the modern selfie is quite different.Though the trend of taking selfies is new there has been a barrage of studies done on the type of personality most drawn to this and the psychological perspective of the taking of selfies.Many psychologists say that while the act of taking a selfie is a self-oriented action that allows users to establish their individuality and self-importance it’s also associated with personality traits such as narcissism.


In 2018 the magazine Psychology Today ran an article asking the question if taking selfies was an addiction and if so did it have a negative impact. In the article they referred to several media reports from 2014 ‘that "selfie addiction" had been recognized by psychologists and psychiatrists as a genuine mental disorder. On March 31, 2014, a news story appeared in the Adobo Chronicles website that the American Psychiatric Association had classed selfitis (i.e., the obsessive taking of selfies) as a new mental disorder.’ Considering that the internet had only been around a couple of decades this new phenomenon of selfie addiction happened pretty quickly. Though 1983 is considered the “birthday” of the internet the modern highway of information we know today didn’t really catch on till the mid 1990s.


Social media like Facebook and Instagram give users the opportunity to garner immediate information. Often times getting ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ becomes a game and more important than whatever they are actually posting. Some have taken this to the extreme where the user will post outrageous or offensive images or perform dangerous and cruel acts just for attention. This trend has gotten so bad that many people have developed depression, mental health issues and low self esteem while trying to compete with the perfect images presented on social media.


According to the AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION APA said there are three levels of the disorder:


  • Borderline selfitis : taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day but not posting them on social media

  • Acute selfitis: taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day and posting each of the photos on social media

  • Chronic selfitis: Uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self round the clock and posting the photos on social media more than six times a day


Despite both the internet and selfie craze being relatively new there has been a lot of research done on how it affects people. It’s clear that the more time a person spends on a social media sites like Facebook the more likely they are to struggle with feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and jealousy. Though it’s pretty obvious that most people only share the best versions of themselves some people still get lured into competing with a fantasy.

Scrolling through your newsfeed and seeing everyone you know experiencing adventure, excitement, and achievement can cause many to feel depressed like they’re missing out. This is what drives so many to post images they hope will get attention, even if that attention is negative or from sketchy online strangers. Some even go so far as to react by sharing images that conjure the same feelings of envy in others. Many of us on social media have gotten friend requests where the person’s page is filled with nothing but selfies.


Ironically many of the people obsessed with selfies are among the most insecure which seems like a paradox.It can also be a self made trap where the person ends up competing with themselves in the hopes of topping the last photo with an even better, more unique or outrageous image. This of course puts them on a never ending cycle of doom they can never win.This is where the negative impact lies and is often overlooked by friends and family who just assume the person is a narcissist. So the next time you’re on social media just keep in mind much of what you see is designed to make you feel envy, jealousy and insecurity. This has long been the formula for both fashion magazines and advertising agencies as a way to seduce the public to buy a product but now that we all live in the age of the selfie anyone can use this formula for any number of reasons.As they say in advertising let the buyer beware.



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