Selfies. Acts of shameless vanity self-captured with a smartphone. So popular they’ve recently landed their own dictionary definition. Via Miriam Webster 2015: “an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks.” Selifes inundate our social media channels and our newsfeeds- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. There’s the duck face selfie. The bathroom selfie. The gym selfie. The bed selfie. The car selfie.
Is all this selfie-mania merely playful fun? Or, is it indicative of underlying anti-social personality traits? A recent Ohio State University study suggests the latter.
In this recent study, 800 men between the ages of 18 – 40 were asked to fill out an online survey, indicating their photo posting habits on social media outlets, such as Facebook. The questionnaire addressed specific behaviors, for example: do you edit your photos prior to posting? Then, following this targeted questionnaire, the men were asked to fill out a second standard psychological test – used to assess self-objectifying behaviors, narcissism, psychopathy, and other anti-social behaviors.
To clarify these terms: “objectification” refers to being overly focused on one’s personal appearance; outward appearance determines one’s sense of self-worth. “Narcissism” refers to an over-inflated self-image, extreme self-centeredness and a grandiose view of oneself. While “psychopathy” involves a lack of empathy and highly impulsive behavior.
Through the combination of these two tests – the linkage between selfie-posting behaviors and anti-social personality traits were carefully assessed.
The Verdict on Selfies
After reviewing and assessing the two questionnaires side by side – the verdict rang in on selfies. There does in fact prove to be a direct and obvious correlation between the frequency and quantity of selfie-photos posted–with personality disorders like narcissism and psychopathy. In the specific breakdown, posting more frequent photos correlated with both narcissistic and psychopathic traits. Actually ‘editing’ the photos before posting was associated solely with narcissism. The timing of posts– ie: posting photos immediately without any editing– is indicative solely of psychopathy. The study’s lead author Jesse Fox sums it up: “That makes sense because psychopathy is characterized by impulsivity. They are going to snap the photos and put them online right away. They want to see themselves. They don’t want to spend time editing.” Fox continues to conclude that editing the photos indicates higher levels of self-objectification. He states, “With the growing use of social networks, everyone is more concerned with their appearance. That means self-objectification may become a bigger problem for men, as well as for women.”
Analyzing the Results
The results of this analysis doesn’t automatically peg these selfie-posting men as psychopaths or narcissists. However, it does indicate that they scored higher than others in these anti-social traits, while still falling within the normal range of behavior. Still, this is a ‘danger zone.’ As our dependence to social media continues to grow – these unhealthy behaviors are at risk of growing along with it.
Interestingly, a similar study has not yet been conducted on women – who, generally, tend to surpass men in their selfie-posting quantity and frequencies. As selfie-ism continues to pervade our social media channels – more of these speculative, analytical tests are certain to follow.
Social Media on a Whole
Taking a look at social media on a whole – there have already been previous studies conducted that also indicate a correlation between excessive social media usage and low self-esteem or narcissism. On the spectrum of low self-esteem, some individuals may feel worse about their own lives, as they are continually comparing themselves to their “friends” depicting their lives in positive- even boastful- ways. We all know the type. The perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect home, the exotic vacation selfies. It can give one a warped view of reality- thinking that everyone is living vibrant, rich lives- which is often a misrepresentation.
On the narcissism spectrum, this self-inflated image can come through having an exorbitant numbers of social media “friends” or “followers”– and believing that is a direct reflection of reality. When, in fact, these types of social media relationships can be anything but truly “social.”
This rapidly growing trend of smartphones, equipped with cameras, put the realm of social media right at our fingertips. Checking our email, being inundated by status updates, hearing the immediate ‘ping’ of a new message – makes social media a constant and tireless part of our