The selfie is a phenomenon that has exploded alongside the popularity of social media. Ten years ago many people would have cringed at the thought of being caught doing something as narcissistic as snapping a photo of themselves, never mind sharing it publicly online. Yet now gadgets such as selfie sticks, and even a specially designed phone case to give ‘the perfect selfie lighting’ have become everyday sights.
A young man recently told his story of selfie addiction, explaining how his obsession with snapping the perfect portrait caused him to drop out of school, lose 30 pounds and not leave the house for months. This downward spiral eventually led to a suicide attempt which was fortunately unsuccessful. Pyschologists who worked with the man explained that this was not an issue of vanity but rather a symptom of genuine mental illness, diagnosing him with body dysmorphia and obsessive compulsive disorder.
“Recently, the American Psychiatric Association actually confirmed that taking selfies is a mental disorder, going as far as to term the condition “selfitis”. The APA has defines it as: “the obsessive compulsive desire to take photos of one’s self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem and to fill a gap in intimacy”, and has categorized it into three levels: borderline, acute, and chronic.”
This information led me to watch the series of shorts by Channel 4 titled ‘Selfie Addicts’. The films tell the stories of 6 individuals whose lives centre around snapping and posting selfies. Though many describe selfies as having saved them from a place of deep insecurity and depression it’s hard to view the outcome as a happy ending. One girl tells of how she stays up til 5am everyday editing hundreds of photos simply to have the perfect one to post online. Her last relationship ended because of the obsession. Not quite the fairytale ending they try to portray. Despite claims that selfies have helped them to gain confidence it would seem that this confidence is still entirely dependent on image and that image being shared with and appreciated by others, strangers even. To me this represents an attitude that is present in many of us. As social media has seeped further and further into our everyday lives we constantly seek validation and connection through sites such as Facebook and Instagram. To me this signifies a lack of self-esteem, fulfilment, attention and real social or emotional connection in these peoples lives that motivates them to go seeking it from just about anyone or anywhere they can, positive or negative.
Channel 4 documentary:
Selfie addiction resources: