By Janet R. Tolete and Chrelsa Joy A. Salarda
noun self·ie \ˈsel-fē\
: an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks
With a world-famous celebrity, in an enviable vacation destination, or before a sumptuous slice of delicacy – it seems understandable, and even necessary, to capture rate moments of privilege, pleasure, and beauty with a selfie. We wouldn’t think twice about taking a self- portrait and sharing it with friends during special; days.
Taking pictures or ourselves of ourselves, however, has evolved into a totally different animal unleashed by the power of ubiquitous social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.
Nowadays, it has become quite common to see photos of people making funny, sexy, or cute faces; having just woke up in bed; or posing in their well-coordinated outfit for the day, regardless of rhyme or reason, before an audience of hundreds or thousands of so-called friends or followers.
The craze has overtaken the globe, such that the Oxford Dictionaries2 declared “selfie” as its 2013 international word of the year. Google3 had reported that Android users post 93 million selfies per day. And take note, a lot of those could be form our own Makati City, Time’s4 selfie capital of the world.
The staggering phenomenon has even spawned more digital filters plus cosmetic procedures to make people look like celebrities. Selfie has even inspired songs in English and in Filipino, and a short-lived TV series in the US.
The selfie generation
What is more interesting about this trend, though, is that it resonates more among the youth, especially teenagers on the path to self-discovery. While previous generations of teenagers have explored various looks and personalities on the mirror or in the eyes of their closest friends, teens of today do this experimentation through selfies.
The millennial generation5 (ages 18 to 33), in particular, had been tagged as the selfie generation – “drifting away from traditional institutions – political, religious and cultural” and being born at a time when digital and mobile technology was a given.
Lart James, 19, said that he shares his selfies with friends and family to keep them informed about him. Charles, 21, and Christensen, 22, confess that taking selfies entertains them when they’re bored. Christensen also shared that “when I feel beautiful, I would take selfies.” Melanie, 16, and Brainada, 20 explained that they just wanted to see how their faces look on camera.
All five believe selfies betray their vanities, yet they keep doing it. Why? How does it impact them?
The psychology behind
Erik Erikson, a pioneer in a developmental psychology, explained that during adolescence, teens experience a crisis called identity versus role confusion. 6 teens get more interested in knowing their identity and begin to explore personality images of themselves.
Often, teens change their behavior, hobbies, and choices to agree with their peers, because peer groups at this stage become very important. Here, they seek validation and social support.
“Of course, teens like to ‘fit in’ to build their identity; thus they go along with the crowd. This means that whatever the crowd does, they do it, too, “said Professor Eva Castillo, Psychology Department head of the Adventist University of the Philippines in Silang, Cavite.
“If doing selfies creates a pleasurable experience, teens tend to repeat the experience until it becomes a habit,” Professor Castillo added.
This alludes to behaviorist B.F Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning, which says that responses from the environment “increase the probability of a behavior being repeated.”7 Behavior is reinforced depending on consequences (i.e., rewards or punishment) one gets from it. If taking selfies and posting them online gets positive results, teens will repeat the behavior. The more likes and comments they get, the more selfies they post online. This turns into a habit, which then becomes a behavior, which, for some, ends up as a compulsion.
The danger of selfies
Danny Bowman, 19, had been so addicted to taking selfies that he attempted suicide because he couldn’t take the right selfie look. He dropped out of school, confined himself at home for six months just to spend 10 hours taking photos of himself each day. He lost his friends and his health, mentally and physically, deteriorated.8
Five other people actually died attempting to take selfies in risky locations.9
These instances and the physical danger with selfies might be isolated, but a greater danger lies in the impact of selfies on the self-image of the youth.
Although taking selfies is not a mental disorder in itself, as has been reported in a satirical site,10 addiction to it may be an indicator of deeper psychological issues.11
As teen development specialist, Dr. Robyn Silverman, Said, “They [teens] crave positive feedback to help them see how their see how their identity fits into their world. Social media offers an opportunity to garner immediate information. The problem is they are looking in a dangerous place.”12
In the face of unbridled, insensitive, and even anonymous social media, the selfie generation ends up agonizing over very few “likes or one or two negative comments, as if these are the only metrics that will prove they matter. One can only imagine the vulnerability of their still fragile self-esteem in such an environment.
The healthier way
External pleasurable experiences such as “likes’ are really fleeting and shallow. Not for they are only bsed on looks, not character. The relationship between a selfie-taker and the “likers” is also artificial and passive.
For teens to obtain a healthier view of themselves, feedback should come from parents, friends, and people who sincerely know and love them – from real relationships, not virtual ones.
With a healthy view of themselves, teenagers will learn to recognize and accept their strengths and weaknesses, and acknowledge their infinite worth.
As the bible says, we all – young and old, duck faces and shy types – are created in the image of God, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139: 14), whether others like it or not.
About the Author
Janet Rosell-Tolete is copyeditor of Health and Home, while Chrelsa Joy A. Salarda volunteers as a writer and secretary at the Adventist Church mission office in Zamboanga Peninsula.
1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “selfie,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/selfie
2. Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013,” Oxford Words Blog, Nov. 19, 2013, retrieved July 16, 2015, http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/press-releases/oxford-dictionaries-word-of-the-year-2013/
3. Quentyn Kennemer, “Android has 1 billion active users in the past 30 days (and other interesting number from IO),” Phandriod, June 25, 2014, retrieved July 20, 2015, http://phandroid.com/2014/06/25/android-has-1-billion-active-users-in-the-past-30-days-and-other-interesting-numbers-from-io
4. Chris Wilson, “The Selfiest Cities in the World: TIME’s Definitive Ranking,” Mar. 10, 2014, retrieved July 20, 2015, http://time.com/selfies-cities-world-rankings/
5. Charles M. Blow, “The Self(ie) Generation,” The New York Times, March 7, 2014, retrieved July 20, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/opinion/blow-the-self-ie-genereation.html?_r=1
6. Saul McLeod, “Erik Erikson,“ Simply Psychology, updated 2013, retrieved July 20, 2015, http://simplypsyschology.org/Erik-Erikson.html
7. Saul McLeod, “Skinner – Operant Conditioning” Simply Psychology, updated 2015, retrieved July 20, 2015, http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html
8. Gemma Aldridge and Kerry Harder, “Selfie addict took TWO HUNDRED a day – and tried to kill himself when he couldn’t take perfect photo,” Mirror, Mar. 23, 2014, retrieved July 15, 2015, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/selfie-addict-took-two-hundred-3273819
9. “5 fatal accidents involving selfies,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, Aug. 15, 2014, retrieved July 13, 2015, http://technology.inquirer.net/38130/5-fatal-accidents-involving-selfies
10. American Psychiatric Association Makes it Official: ‘Selfie A Mental Disorder, The Adobo Chronicles, Mar. 31, 2014, retrieved July 20, 2015, http://adobochronicles.com/2014/03/31/american-psychiatric-association-makes-it-official-selfie-a-mental-disorder/
11. “‘Selfie Addiction’ Is No Laughing Matter, Psychiatric Say,” Huffington Post, Mar. 25, 2014, retrieved July 14, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/25/selfie-addiction-mental-illness_n_5022090.html
12. Carolyn Savage, “The selfie syndrome: Why teens use social media for validation and how parents can counteract it,” Today Parents, Oct. 15, 2013, retrieved July 21, 2015, http://www.today.com/parents/selfie-syndrome-why-teens-use-social-media-validation-how-parents-8C11391281