Do selfies indicate a personality disorder?

Think all those selfies you’re posting only indicate a healthy self-confidence? Think again. Studies show selfies can indicate narcissism in both men and women, a personality disorder characterized by an excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one’s physical appearance.

This selfie fad begs the question: why has taking selfies just recently become so popular? Despite the advancement in technology and the ease in which one can now take a selfie with their phone, the argument can be made that the reason for this sudden outburst is social media. The popular photo-sharing application Instagram was launched in 2010. From April 2012 to December 2014, the application went from 100 million users to 300 million users. In 2013, the app’s user base grew by 23%. This, of course, is the same year “selfie” was announced Word of The Year.

Today, taking selfies and posting them online is seen as completely normal. Men and women continually try to look their best for all of the world to see. Whether it’s a desire for jealousy or praise simply depends on the person. Either way, recent studies show the dangerous effects of the selfie trend.

According to a recent article in Time magazine entitled, “Men Who Share Selfies Online Show More Signs of Psychopathy,” selfies may indicate a troubling personality trend.

“Men who post lots of selfies on social media networks are more likely to show signs of psychopathy, a personality disorder characterized by anti-social behavior,” a new study in Personality and Individual Differences states.

Anti-social behavior is often a result of excessive time spent on apps such as Facebook and Instagram.
Anti-social behavior is often a result of excessive time spent on apps such as Facebook and Instagram. (Creative Commons license)

The research, which surveyed 800 men ages 18 to 40, also confirmed a common belief that men who share selfies online are more likely to be narcissistic, according to the study. Narcissism and self-objectification were also linked to men who edit their selfies before posting them online.”

This study shows us that in the world of social media, where we are all supposed to be better connected to one another, many males can suffer from “anti-social behavior.” Instead of pulling us together, research shows it may be pushing us further away. Jesse Fox, the study’s lead author and assistant professor at the Ohio State University, is not surprised that avid selfie takers are more narcissistic.

“The more interesting finding is that they are more prone to self-objectification,” Fox said in response to these findings. Technically defined, self-objectification is when we choose to evaluate ourselves based on appearance because that’s how we believe others judge us.

Senior Taara Rana said, “I understand the logic, but I don’t necessarily experience boys like that at SAS.”

Senior Amalie Doetch agrees to a certain extent. “I don’t know anyone that posts pictures of themselves, but for some guys’ birthdays, their friends will post shirtless pictures of them flexing on Facebook.” Could that possibly be per request?

Women are not immune to these narcissistic tendencies, though from the outside it may look quite different. In a campaign that was launched during the Oscars on Feb. 22, Dove and Twitter teamed up to battle a scary female trend on Twitter. The #SpeakBeautiful campaign is based around one disturbing statistic — that women posted more than five million negative tweets about beauty and body image (their own or someone else’s) last year.

Additionally, the study also showed that women are 50% more likely to say something negative about themselves than positive on social media. Why is that?

Senior Claudia Krogmeier said it’s “because girls would be considered conceited if they talked only positive things about themselves.”

Krogmeier continues by saying, “A lot of the time if you are negative, it leaves room for people to compliment or reassure you.” This is where men and women differ on social media. Both can be equally narcissistic and self-motivated, it is simply expressed over social media in different ways. Males (and some females as well) post photos to receive admiration from others, while many females post negative tweets and status’ that they know will be quickly refuted.

Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that there are over two million small businesses now advertising on Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that there are over two million small businesses now advertising on Facebook. (Creative Commons license)

While it can be both fun and useful to update your friends via social media, there comes a line that is too often crossed. In many cases, the genuine desire to share one’s experiences with the world is trounced by the desperate need for admiration and reassurance. Executive Council President Callum Nesbitt said, “A lot of it has to do with the amount of likes you get. The more you get, the better you feel. It’s an egotistical game.”

Overall, social media graces us with the desirable ability to “stay connected.” Never before has the world experienced such social simplicity. We can communicate with friends and family across the world, we can meet new people, and we can even follow the daily lives of our favorite celebrities and inspirations. It also allows businesses to work more efficiently.

While this is clearly beneficial, self-objectification, narcissism, anti-social behavior, and negativity may all be unintended consequences of social media. So, next time you post that selfie or share that tweet, ask yourself, how has social media affected you?

Author: Jack Albanese

Jack Albanese is a Senior and has been at SAS for 8 years. Activities include varsity golf, basketball, and football. He is also the co-writer of "The Media Lab." This is Jack's first year with the newspaper.

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