Megastar Amitabh Bachchan on an occassion said he was left disgusted by the insensitivity of young fans who surrounded him and began clicking selfies while he was attending the cremation of a friend. “Disgusting! No respect for the departed, or for the moment,” Bachchan later posted in a tweet.
Some time back in Chennai, a young medical student, dressed in uniform with a stethoscope around her neck, took a smiling selfie next to a seriously-ill elderly woman lying on the bed. Her WhatsApp post read: “I was on duty and saw a lady was dying and then took a selfie”.
The trend of clicking selfies is becoming popular today, not only with children and adolescents but with adults as well. However, it is important to understand the psychology behind this trend as the young adults who are most concerned with their looks are in the phase of adolescence during which they are finding partners, trying to explore the world, but still not fully absorbed in themselves, studies or careers.
Therefore, there is a high probability of such a trend reaching dangerous proportions, and turning into an obsessive tendency. The selfie culture tends to deprive youth of social stimulation, becoming more and more engulfed in the virtual and technological world of the media. Such excessive preoccupation can also lead to social withdrawal and alienation.
Selfies seem to have bypassed the standard social norms and barriers of ageism and cool-ism. Teens are obsessed, parents think it’s funny to get involved in the trend, celebrities were made for them and even hipsters take them semi-ironically. They seem to fit everyone to the point where selfies take up all our social media newsfeeds, but is that such a good thing?
What psychologists has to say
According to the Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, “An excessive dependence on the social media is in itself leading to greater chances of social alienation amongst the adolescents today, as they tend to prefer communicating through social networking services rather than face-to-face interactions. Such obsessions can further lead to adverse influences on the child or adolescent’s self-esteem, body image satisfaction and feelings of anxiety or depressive symptoms as well as inter-personal relationships. The selfie trend could further this isolation, as the individual would tend to pay excessive emphasis on one self and the perception of oneself by others, relying excessively on others approval. If overdone, this could in the long run lead to adverse influences not just on the individual’s self concept and body image, but could also interfere in his or her interpersonal relationships. Further, obsessive selfie clicking would also lead to a neglect of other significant areas of functioning including personal, academic as well as occupational functioning.”
Psychologist Vandana Singh says taking selfies is all about people trying to figure out who they are and project this to other people. It’s a kind of self-definition. We all like the idea of being sort of in control of our image and getting attention, being noticed, being part of the culture. we’re social beings. We want to engage with other people, but there’s also a sense that if we’re not seen, then we’re invisible. That can be depressing and frustrating.”
It’s about being noticed
Teenagers agree that it’s about being in control of their image. “It’s much easier to edit and control a selfie than a picture taken by someone else. One can make it look better. But the element of trying to “look better” isn’t just plain vanity – it’s about being noticed and accepted in society. We might take several selfies to pick the perfect one, but we don’t just leave it there; we post it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest of it.
It is frightening to see the negative impact that a split-second selfie can have on young women, although on some level, we could have predicted this. Constantly looking at carefully edited photos is bound to have an impact on whoever’s browsing them, and it is not that surprising that it makes women worry more about their own body image.
Selfie phones and selfie sticks are no longer just a convenience but considered the new symbol of self-absorption, say experts, adding that the selfie fever can further isolate this generation and those to come.
The thrill of narcissism, uncensored by reflection or judgement, all too often leads to impulsive self promotion. The impulse may be heightened by the culture of celebrity, in which there is an underlying anxiety about our status in the world if our image is not widely promoted. A recent study, appearing in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, found that people who posted a lot of selfies tend to have higher levels of certain narcissistic traits such as fragile self-esteem.
“The selfie craze is pulling sensitivity out of Indian teenagers’ minds. Excessive or extremes of such behavior warrant counselling,” says Dr. Parikh.
“An excessive dependence to the extent of becoming preoccupied with the social need of posting these selfies at regular intervals can be detrimental to the psychological and social well-being of teenagers,” elaborates Dr Samir Parikh.
Such obsessions can further lead to adverse influences on the child or adolescent’s self-esteem, body image satisfaction and feelings of anxiety or depressive symptoms as well as inter-personal relationships.
The selfie culture tends to deprive youth of social stimulation, becoming more and more engulfed in the virtual and technological world of the media. Such excessive preoccupation can also lead to social withdrawal and alienation.