Social media, it gets a bad rep. Sometimes justly so. We've all been inundated with statistics about how selfies are making us more narcissistic. For example, it has been found that the more times you change your profile picture, the more narcissistic you are. Ohio State University conducted a study which found that men who posted more photos of themselves scored higher in measures of psychopathy and narcissism.
This correlation was less prominent when looking at women, which I'd argue is because a lot of women who take selfies see it as an empowering act. The old tale of women's attractiveness only being palatable to society if they don't see it themselves- if you accept a compliment, you're conceited, if you disagree then you're ungrateful, if you compliment yourself then you're vain. A lot of millennial women see taking selfies as a way to own their beauty and as a way to tell the world that it's ok to love yourself. That doesn't make you a narcissist, it just means you know your worth and aren't afraid to be open about it.
Rawhide, a nonprofit organisation found that: more people died from taking selfies in 2015 than from shark attacks, 1,000 selfies are posted on Instagram every 10 seconds, 74% of all images on Snapchat are selfies, that there are 93 million selfies shared each day and that 19 out of 20 teens have taken a selfie.
What do all these statistics have in common? It seems like they're hinting at something but can't quite find a point that links all these facts together. The shark statistic for example, isn't really that surprising seeing as room fresheners, chairs and christmas trees also kill more people annually than sharks do. Selfies ain't special in that case.
As for the other stats, all they're showing is that people like taking selfies, particularly young adults. Personally, I'm rather surprised that only 19 out of 20 teenagers have taken a selfie, not 20 out of 20. I mean that statistic isn't asking how many people have shared a selfie, just if you've taken one- which let's be honest, we all have. Even if it just sits in our gallery collecting dust. The study also found that selfies "allow people to present an ideal image of themselves". No sh*t sherlock. That isn't exclusive to selfies, humans do this in every area of their lives.
Dr. David Veale stated that "two out of three of all the patients who come to see me with Body Dysmorphic Disorder since the rise of camera phones have a compulsion to repeatedly take and post selfies on social media". This as a fact may be true, but I'm not sure the correlation is so direct- could it not be that teenagers are the group who suffer from BDD the most, and are also the group who use social media the most frequently? Yes unrealistic images on social media do have a negative effect on confidence but, surely, the fact these patients are uploading selfies shows that they still have some confidence intact?
Pennsylvania, Southern California and Yale University conducted a study that concluded "people who took photographs reported higher levels of enjoyment in the activity". This debunks the myth that if you take photographs of, say, a concert, that you're not enjoying it, when actually taking a photograph may be a consequence of enjoyment. Wanting to share with the world what an amazing time you're having may be the reason we take photos (shocking, I know), rather than the idea that it's all a ploy to keep up a social media facade.
The problem with all the aforementioned research is that they are treating social media as a separate entity, or an influence. When in reality it isn't separate from human beings- it is an extension of us, a product of us and a modern vehicle where we express our humanity.
Social media can made us happy, and it can make us sad, but it isn't usually the cause, rather a tool. For example, social media can be an extremely negative place for people with eating disorders, as they can find damaging forums promoting anorexia, but social media isn't the cause of this it's the people who create the forums.
Social media, and in turn, selfies, aren't the problem. People are. Society is. Social media has increased accessibility and globalisation of information, but it can't be blamed for the content that has been globalised. We curate it, social media just provides a platform to share it on.
Photo Credit: Harper's Bazaar
Like this post? Hit the heart to save it to your profile.