Are Selfies Narcissistic?

18 Comments
October 15, 2013 ‐ By Charing Ball
Source: Instagram

Source: Instagram

According to the Daily Mail UK, the selfie game is so serious right now that celebrities like Rihanna actually hire people to hold the iPhone straight while they get their pouty lips and eyes-playing-coy look just right:

In the golden age of social media, nothing says more about one’s social status than a perfectly posed selfie. While most resort to an outstretched arm and flattering angles to capture the best pictures, many celebrities are instead enlisting ‘Instassistants’ – friends and close ones whose responsibility it is to take the most Instagram-worthy shots.Rihanna, Miranda Kerr and Georgia May Jagger are just some A-listers who are guilty of allocating selfie duty to someone else, with Rihanna making it clear that her Instassistant is best friend Melissa Forde.”

Who knew the “selfie” was that deep? Actually I did. Nowadays, a candid picture, traditionally used to preserve memories when you had nobody around to take the picture for you, has be elevated to full on professional-style photo shoots thanks to social media. I’m talking about angles, lightening, settings (Lord forbid there is a pair of dirty socks hanging in the background), filters and photoshop. And who could blame folks as a “bad” pictures have consequences, just ask anyone, who has had their poor fashion choice turned into a meme. Or just ask this plus size woman, who became internet famous after her Halloween picture of her dressed as Laura Croft was tagged, “Fridge Raider” and passed around the internet. Try if you might but the cameras’ lens does not lie. Or tell the truth – depending if you are a half full or empty glass drinker.

However there are some folks, who without the anxiety of “bad” pictures, appear to take the selfie to the extremes. I’m talking about the people, who upload several images of themselves, usually just their face, engaged in the same facial expressions? I don’t care if the caption on the pic says, “This morning I’m feeling great. Woke up in Paris…,” the only part of Paris in that picture you will see is a bit of the Paris wall behind their big ole’ faces. I used to attribute this to the case of narcissism. According to this article in Physiology Today, I might have had a point as more and more research reveals that: “Traits related to narcissism have also increased, such as extrinsic values, unrealistic expectations, materialism, low empathy, agentic (but not communal) self-views, self-esteem, self-focus, choosing more unique names for children, less concern for others, less interest in helping the environment, and low empathy.”

And this article entitled The Internet’s Narcissism Generation, writer Bill Davidow points to various research, which draws correlations between the ever popular “selfies” on social media and narcissism, including a Western Illinois University study, which discovered a link between Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) and Facebook activity. While science believes that the “selfie” is the gateway to all the horrible things that Lauryn Hill crazy-talks…erm, I mean prophesizes about in her songs, the obsessively photogenic among us have a different perspective. Like writer Maurice Tracy, who views his selfies as more of a confidence builder and expression of self-love. He writes:

I take my selfies because I am that guy who, unless he takes the picture himself, doesn’t get his picture taken. I am the guy who, unless he suggests a group picture, doesn’t get clicked with the group. My friend who asked truthfully had very little right to judge; everyone takes pictures of him, with him, and for him. The same is true of almost all my friends. I would venture to say that the same is probably true of many people who criticize selfie-pictures. This is not to say that all selfie-artists come from some place of needing to subvert a problematic cultural narrative, but some of us do. I live in a world where I didn’t hear someone romantically call me beautiful and desirable until I was 26. I live in a world where either body privilege or racial privilege is always against me. So I point my camera at my face, most often when I am alone, and possibly bored, and I click; I upload it to Instagram, and I hold my breath because the world is cruel, people are brave and vicious online, and I am what some would call ugly, but I don’t see it.”

Reading Tracy’s essay reminds me that we can’t always judge a person – or a selfie – by its cover.

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  • Sparkster

    “Charing asks if selfies represent a sense of narcissism or are they a way to express self love” – this is a common misperception, there is no difference between narcissism and self-love – they are the same thing! The sentence should say are they simply expressing natural self-love (ie narcissism) or are they becoming overly narcissistic (ie malignant self-love),

  • Tonyoardee

    Nothin i hate more about social media than selfies and taking photos of food?? just why?? that doesnt look weird in the slightest to you?

    • Natasha1981

      I thought I was the only one that hates seeing pics of food people cooked or brought from a restaurant, it’s like yeah, we get it, you can cook, now go eat your food! Also the selfies in cars, yeah we get it, you have a car and you can drive, now drive your car!

  • JustAshley

    Paying people to hold the camera phone to take selfies?There this guy I was “feelin” who would send me these selfies since he knows I’m not on social media. I would always wonder, “Who the frak is holding the camera phone for all these pics?” I liked him less after I got like 30 pics. I get it, he’s on the come up and that’s cool, but I can’t help but…. like him less now.

    So yeah gratuitous selfies are narcissistic, just like all social media- which is all about shameless self promotion.
    *
    I caught myself about to take a “selfie” one morning because I was really feeling my outift hair and makeup. Before I snapped the pic I thought, “What in the world? What the hayle are you doing?” LOL I didn’t take the pic. Besides who would I send it too? I’m not on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I felt ridiculous.

    *
    I can see if your a celebrity. You have to have an ego the size of the Titanic just to make it in Hollyweird, plus shameless self promotion is how you make your money, but regular everyday people? I mean whats so interesting about regular everyday people that they feel the need to broadcast every thought, outfit, meal, event, purchase, relationship status and so on? Maybe its just me, but I just don’t think I’m THAT interesting…… and the little glimpses I see here and there of regular everyday people on those networks aren’t THAT interesting either. Just my opinion….

  • taz

    so people cant take pictures of themselves now without someone calling them a narcissist?

  • FromUR2UB

    This is not some new manifestation of social media. People have always posed for pictures.
    Talk about narcissistic? I had a friend who had pictures of herself all over her house. There were a couple of her and her husband, which seemed normal. But, at that time, I had never known anyone who had pictures of themselves in frames, all over their home.
    My mother had a cousin who was a schoolteacher. Every year, she sent my mother her school picture. I thought that was amusing. It wasn’t as if you could notice how much she had grown or changed since the year before.

  • Trisha_B

    a selfie is a pic you take on your own, not a pic someone takes of you…..I think those who are narcissistic are those who take pictures of themselves everyday looking for a reaction & validation. You know captions like “im looking so ugly today…” but got a face full of make-up just to hear people say how good they look -___- But just taking pictures of yourself doesnt make you some self absorbed person. Everyone has a lil narcissism in them, you wouldnt take a picture of yourself & upload it if you didnt think you looked good & show it to your friends & family. You just have those who take narcissism to a whole different level

    **if you want to see real narcissism, & some creepy, visit @Mrpimpgoodgame on instagram. he only has selfies, in the same setting. But he has a ton of followers lmao

    • charingb

      Why did I make the mistake of looking that up? I can’t stop laughing…

  • kickash

    What annoys me is when the girls are talkin about, “oh just woke up i feel so ugly today” when they know good and well they had fixed themselves up and put on a lil makeup and they say they feel ugly because they are thirsty for compliments.

    • Let It Be

      LOL! You ain’t never lied! Then they mess up their hair a little and try look ‘sleepy/sexy’. Child please!

  • JMO

    IMO, yes it’s narcissistic! I have a friend who takes selfies like 10 times a day and put it on FB and IG, just herself. I’m like “do you not have a life outside of FB, IG or your phone?”. And don’t get me started on the ones who are in the driver’s seat their cars, just watch the road already!

  • D.D

    People have been taking pictures of themselves for a while before social media. social media just coined the term selfie. I think it is only Narcissistic if you are that person with nothing but seflie’s on your page like it looks like you live on the planet alone. If you have hundreds of pictures and 99% are of you then you might have a problem.

  • stewwie

    Are Selfies Narcissistic? ABSOLUTELY….

    So is the whole social media phenomena….it is basically all of us standing in one big room and shouting ” look at me, look at me ….please”
    But, it does serve much more than our narcissistic tendencies…..It taps into other primitive, innate instincts we have like;- our vanity, our need for validation, our need for inclusion into the group and obsession with our great self….ect

    It is allowed to flourish in today’s society because it serves the corporations interest and the interest of the powers that be. But is is not healthy and it is a poor replacement of the real thing.

    • bluekissess

      You’re right.

    • Kusman

      So that is because our instinct wanna do that, but i dont get your answer about the relation with selfish?

  • Just saying!!

    No they are not narcissistic but quantity and context is everything.

  • bluekissess

    “Celebrities like Rihanna actually HIRE people to hold the iPhone straight while they get their pouty lips and eyes-playing-coy look just right.” Where do I sign up for that job? That’s not considered a selfie if someone else is taking the picture. Smh

    • sammi_lu

      You are so right.