It’s been a few years since the « selfies » phenomenon arrived. First it made us laugh, but it’s now totally democratized. It’s now hard to find an advertising that doesn’t show this act and we’re not astonished anymore to see people taking photos of themselves in everyday common situations.
We now begin to have a better sight of this practice and we gently notice its negative consequences on mental and physical health.
Risks of « Selfie-Steem »
A study highlighted a dangerous association between taking selfies and self-esteem. The latter would strongly be influenced by the number of « likes » and comments generated by posts on social media. In this case, the quest for personal gratification doesn’t take place in real life through social contacts, hobbies or personal realizations but through the simple posting of semi-retouched autoportraits.
The risk of this phenomenon resides in the fact that our personal gratification lies entirely in the hands of our contacts on social media (that we sometimes barely know) who decide to show us (or not) some « interest ». We then are bereaved of our capacity of self-gratification through activities that make us grow mentally, physically, spiritually, etc. Furthermore, the little dopamine boost that shoots every time we see a notification indicating a reaction on one of our last photo possess a strong addictive potential, distracting us from our tasks, reducing our productivity as well as our concentration and increasing risks of car accidents when we look at it instead of the road.
But what will happen the day when nobody reacts to our last selfie or when we’re not able to connect to social media? That’s when troubles come.
Social media and body image
Studies showed an association between time spent on Facebook and the presence of a negative body image, an increase in physical comparison between friends as well as negative body attitudes. This could increase risks of developing bulimia, anorexia, negative body image as well as encouraging the use of plastic surgery. In fact, the endless confrontation with « perfect » images (posts on social media almost always try to reflect a positive image) that don’t represent the entire complexity of life by suppressing imperfections, increase the pressure on people to be perfect, flawless and without any emotional weakness. A few kilos too much or a passing sad mood and you’re already out of the Internet « norm »…Furthermore, the replacement of real life interactions by virtual chats could be an increasing factor of depression and anxiety in young people that become isolated and lonely.
Another study also highlighted that selfies and their posting on social media may foster narcissistic behaviors and increase egocentrism. Those behaviors, by going against the establishment of a good social circle (which, I will never repeat too much, is a protective factor agains numerous mental and physical disorders), could worsen our health significantly.
Finally, a Russian prevention campaign warned people against risks of selfies-related accidents, following numerous deaths and injuries. They advise not to take a selfie while being on a rooftop, in the middle of train tracks, in front of a wild animal or while « playing » with a gun. You’re warned, selfie isn’t only dangerous for your mental health but also for your physical integrity!
How to get back on the happiness track
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (no I didn’t fall asleep on my keyboard, it’s the name of an eminent psychologist) explains that happiness is attainable when we live experiences that make us feel the « flow ». This concept represents a mental and physical state that we experience when we’re so focused and involved in a task that nothing else seems to matter (I sincerely advise you to read his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” which is totally captivating). If you already said something like « when I practice this activity, I can’t think about something else, my mind is free », you experienced this feeling. Csikszentmihalyi explains that this type of experience is so enjoyable that people are ready to feel it again at great cost. This concept explains why some people are ready to take a lot of risks in their hobbies (like base jump or wingsuit for example), even if this feeling can be experienced in simpler conditions (which will reassure the less courageous). You just have to be absorbed in your task, know why you’re doing it and what it brings you.
So what are selfies doing in the middle of this?
Selfies actually prevent you to feel the « flow » because, by wanting to immortalize every instant of what you’re living, you prevent yourself from being totally focused on your activity. By interrupting to take pictures, you miss the experience of « flow » and the possibility to empty your mind, experience the feeling of being free and having control on your life and finally, of growing mentally and physically as a human being.
What should you take home from this article?
No I’m not suggesting you to throw your smartphone away and I think that using social media is positive as long as it’s not too excessive (I personally use it a lot for business needs). I simply invite you to keep social media for moments when you have nothing else to do, instead of using them during activities that provide you pleasure. Be present, mentally, physically and emotionally in your activities, hobbies, jobs, relationships etc. in order to feel the « flow » and involve yourself in what you do, and then take satisfaction and growth out of it.