Are Selfies Narcissistic?

October 15, 2013  |  

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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