Can Taking Selfies Affect Your Self Esteem?
The seemingly fun spirited modern day version of self-portraiture the “Selfie” appeared innocently on the social media scene but is now giving rise to concerns and discussion as to its overall societal effect.
The advent of Social Neuroscience with the use of brain imaging helps us to understand the components of the social brain, focusing on studies of self- awareness/knowledge and self-regulation. It is likely that the brain has evolved distinct mechanism for knowing ourselves, knowing how others respond to us, detecting threats from within the social group, and regulating actions in order to avoid being excluded from those groups (Krendl & Heatherton 2009).
Neuroscientists are elaborating on how the importance of image and the Selfies are considered as being one of our natural instincts to reduce anxiety shielding us against the fear of losing control of our minds and lives by preserving our sense of self and showing our image for the world to see as we want to be seen (Joshua Sariñana).
London neuroscientist James Kilner comments on the difference between viewing images of others and viewing images of ourselves. Viewing images and facial expressions allows us to interpret and respond emotionally and socially. Without looking at our own face we rely on our sensory nervous system through the movement of our face to determine what we are trying to convey to others. Surprisingly to us through the selfie we can recognize inaccuracies. Is this why we can sometimes “feel” misunderstood and the “selfie” may be in fact be a very powerful self-help tool when used correctly.
Weighing the importance of image is succinctly summarized by Mark R. Leary, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University “From a social psychological standpoint, the selfie phenomenon seems to stem from two basic human motives. The first is to attract attention from other people. Because people’s positive social outcomes in life require that others know them, people are motivated to get and maintain social attention. By posting selfies, people can keep themselves in other people’s minds. In addition, like all photographs that are posted on line, selfies are used to convey a particular impression of oneself. Through the clothes one wears, one’s expression, staging of the physical setting, and the style of the photo, people can convey a particular public image of themselves, presumably one that they think will garner social rewards.”
In the case of self-esteem it is the positive or negative evaluations of the self, and how we feel about it and includes feelings of self-worthiness and our value to others.
It is from this context that we can examine the impact of the “Selfies” and when there is cause for concern or is it an opportunity for society to establish new media standards for attractiveness. The “Selfie” breaks free from the media control of not only our consumption of images but the way in which they should be interpreted.
The research of Michael A. Stefanone, PhD, and colleagues disappointingly cited that many young women today continue to base their self-worth on their appearance and tend to share more photos online and maintain larger networks on online social networking sites and the selfies offers them a large playing field to potentially exploit themselves or become vulnerable to competition encouraging social comparisons.
Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center points out this comparison is a normal feature of human behavior and "is only problematic when someone fixates or over-compares to their detriment, but that is not a function of the photos as much as the individual struggling with self-esteem."
Then there is the issue of the compulsion of taking a perfect “selfie” which can cascade beyond self-esteem issues and reach into mental health issues like narcissism compensating for a very low and fragile self-esteem, obsessive compulsive behaviors, and addiction to the perfect selfie.
Panpimol Wipulakorn, of the Thai Mental Health Department advised “To pay close attention to published photos, controlling who sees or who likes or comments them, hoping to reach the greatest number of likes is a symptom that ‘selfies’ are causing problems” believing that behaviors could generate brain problems in the future, especially those related to lack of confidence.
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