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Selfies - Platform for Positive Self-Image or Cry for Attention and Validation?

Updated on August 3, 2014
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The "Selfie" Cross Cultural Phenomena

The word "selfie" was elected "Word of the Year 2013″ by the Oxford English Dictionary, and this trend of taking smartphone selfies has so far shown no sign of slowing down.

The amateur self-shot, self-portrait, taken by a digital camera pointed at the mirror has now become a wildly growing trend worldwide. But do these seemingly innocuous self-taken photographs hide a much deeper psychological and subconscious motive?

Many of today's modern-day psychiatrists are of the opinion that selfies can be linked directly to an exaggerated and impoverished mental health condition described by an unhealthy focus on the person's obsession with their outer appearance and looks.

Selfies often depict our inborn desire to be seen positively and puts an unhealthy focus on outer appearances and looks, driving us to continually pursue that vexing and utterly unattainable image.
Selfies often depict our inborn desire to be seen positively and puts an unhealthy focus on outer appearances and looks, driving us to continually pursue that vexing and utterly unattainable image. | Source

What Are We Really Saying By Sharing Selfies?

While the selfies culture may prove to be positive, and for some, fun and creative self-expression, it cannot be easily denied that these types of outwardly directed behaviors often trigger disturbing perceptions of self-indulgence and attention-seeking social dependence that bring to light some disturbing and also important questions.

The seemingly simplest of today's self-taken self-portraits are often highly indicative of deeply-seated psychological dependencies on the actions, behaviors, and habits that are grossly exaggerated, in current social media.
The seemingly simplest of today's self-taken self-portraits are often highly indicative of deeply-seated psychological dependencies on the actions, behaviors, and habits that are grossly exaggerated, in current social media. | Source

Research Findings

It has recently been announced by public health officials in the UK, that the addiction to social media such as Facebook and Twitter can be likened to an illness, and that more than 100 patients seek treatment each year for either narcissism or for exceptionally low self-esteem.

Another finding at the School of Psychology at Flinders University in Australia, a Dr. Amy Slater and Professor Marika Tiggemann researched the short-term effects of Internet use on girls aged 12-16, discovering that of the 96 percent of girls studied, 72.1 percent regularly upload pictures of themselves.

Selfie Poll

What feelings do you consistently experience when viewing the selfies of others?

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Narcissistic Delusions

Essentially, these digital manifestations of online narcissism qualify as a self-presentational method to compensate for a moderate to extreme lack of self-confidence. It is precisely when these attention-seeking efforts are encouraged by peers as well as the media that such self-centered behavior becomes reinforced within the individual's psyche, perpetuating these narcissistic delusions.

Selfie by the 12-year-old male lemur named Bekily.
Selfie by the 12-year-old male lemur named Bekily. | Source

Conclusions

For now the question remains, is this a rise in narcissism, or a cry for attention and validation? Or is it as many would protest simply a platform for promoting their positive self-image and self-worth? No matter your view, mental health authorities worldwide seem to agree that the symptoms often displayed by selfies are indicative of an impoverished state of mental health.

Today's psychiatrists insist that cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to help to recognize one's self-indulgent behavior, then effectively moderate it, especially as it relates to lack of confidence.

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