Our visually obsessed culture values youth and appearance over all else, and of the estimated 1 million selfies (self-portrait photographs) taken each day, 1/3 of people have admitted to altering their photos with filters and editing. We call it digital neuroticism: We want to see these images of ourselves, but then decide that they’re “not good enough.”
Billions of dollars are spent each year in the pursuit of youth via potions, lotions, and surgeries—selfies may be yet another symptom of our societal narcissism. According to San Diego State psychology professor Jean Twenge, PhD, narcissism in young adults has doubled in the past 30 years. The author of Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic estimates that elevated narcissism scores are observed in 30 percent of young adults (up from 15 percent in 1982). What would it say about our society if Kim Kardashian’s book of selfies (called Selfish) goes on to outsell Fitzgerald or Hemingway?
When selfies start taking over your life, and taking them, editing them and posting them becomes your purpose—it’s time for an intervention. How do you know if your “selfie-love” is an obsession? Here are some warning signs:
- Do you spend more time preparing the shot of you in front of the Eiffel Tower (or other attraction) than actually looking at it?
- Do you post selfies to social media more than once per day?
- Do you feel sad when people don’t “like” your selfies?
- Do you take more than five selfies per day?
- Do you spend time every day perfecting your selfies (trying out multiple poses before choosing a photo or manipulating an image to make it look “better”)?
When documenting yourself becomes more important than experiencing the actual moment, you’re missing out on living your own life. In the long term, focusing too much on your appearance and the chronic need to share selfies can be bad for your self-esteem, your relationships, and your overall mental health.
So how do you push back on your selfie obsession?
- Put the phone away. Give yourself “device-free hours” every day—and practice actually enjoying the moment or the thing you are observing. You may be surprised at how much you are missing by spending all of your time trying to “get the shot.”
- Take a social media cleanse—get off Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. for 48 hours. You may be surprised how many other interesting things in life are occurring that do not involve your camera-phone. You will also get the added benefit of not getting drawn into other people’s selfie-driven worlds.
- Give yourself a selfie limit—for instance, three max per day—then cease and desist for the remainder of the day. You may learn to pace your selfies, and realize that they no longer need to take up your entire day.
- Keep it real and put away the editing software. Editing your picture is a bit like editing your life—it makes it less authentic.
All of us want to document special moments, but if we start documenting everything, we may actually stop remembering them as well. Start taking “selfies” with your heart and your mind’s eye. Every one of us is beautiful and you don’t need pictures to prove that—just own it. That’s the best selfie of all.