Pop icon Taylor Swift maintains her wholesome yet sexy edge on Instagram in frame after frame, to the approval of 107 million Instagram followers.
And reality television star Kim Kardashian West became such a selfie pro that she published “Selfish,” a bestselling book packed with her self-portraits.
What If You’re Not a Celebrity?
Everyday people—especially teens and millennials—aren’t immune to the self-promotion available via social media.
With built-in editing software and links to numerous sharing platforms, it’s quick and easy to crop, colorize, and share.
“The teen years, especially, can be a time of social anxiety and depression,” Heather Olsen, a guidance counselor at Kootenai Bridge Academy in Idaho, told Healthline. “With all of the filters available, it’s possible to portray your ideal self. A flattering photo will make you feel good, and the number of ‘likes’ you get makes you feel even better. That creates a dopamine boost, and pretty soon, you’re addicted to the cycle.”
Recently, word circulated online that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) had established a new mental disorder called “selfitis” and stated that obsessive photo taking and posting is a way to gain attention, compensate for low self-esteem, and compensate for lack of intimacy.
Selfie takers said they felt they were establishing individuality and presenting themselves in the best possible light. The study authors noted that “selfitis” has been linked to narcissism and lack of consideration for other people.
“A selfie addiction is when a person is almost obsessively taking selfies, multiple times a day, and posting that to whatever it might be—Snapchat, or Facebook, Instagram,” Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a professor of psychology at California State University–Los Angeles, told Healthline.
She cautions that red flags are raised if more than half of your photos are selfies and you’re using filters or other enhancements to make yourself look better.
In addition to being an indication that you’re looking for love in all the wrong ways, posting an avalanche of photos might actually be annoying your friends, according to a study from the United Kingdom. “This is because people, other than very close friends and relatives, don’t seem to relate well to those who constantly share photos of themselves,” explained lead author Dr. David Houghton.
Not Ready for Your Close-Up
In addition, a recent study posted in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery stated that plastic surgeons reported an uptick in the number of people asking for facial reconstruction solely because they are not happy with the way they look in selfies.
“Young adults are constantly taking selfies to post to social media and think those images are representative of how they really look, which can have an impact on their emotional state,” said Dr. Boris Paskhover of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, a contributor to the JAMA report. “I want them to realize that when they take a selfie, they are in essence looking into a portable funhouse mirror.”
Ducharme said: “The real questions to be asking and to be concerned about are, how much time and mental energy is someone putting into posting selfies?
“What does it mean to the individual? Are they doing this as a healthy way of sharing or are they compulsively posting in order to count the number of ‘likes’ and base their self-esteem and even mood on other people’s responses to the photos? Is this their only connection to the outside world? And are they avoiding real conversations and relationships?”
If you find yourself immersed in the world of obsessive selfie posting, it might be time for introspection.
Ask yourself: Why this is happening? What are you getting out of it? Are you trying to make friends or forge stronger connections? How would it feel to stop?
Find other ways to plug those holes. Put down your smartphone and start talking and listening to people face to face.
Your friends might even thank you for it.
Linda Hagen-Miller is a contributor for Healthline, where this article was originally published.