Selfies: harmless fun or narcissistic?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

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By Erica Setnick

Walking into Planet Fitness in Aston, one might immediately notice a humid odor of sweat and equipment cleaner filling the air. Various exercise machines are occupied with all sorts of people working out at their own pace.

In the weight lifting section, several people are lifting dumbbells and free weights: the big and husky, the slim and toned, and the ones that are just starting to lift.

Sei Charles Boayue, a 29-year-old fraud detection analyst from Delaware, is among those lifting weights.

Boayue lifts for 10 minutes, takes a break, and then walks to the mirror, flexes his biceps, and takes a selfie.

Boayue says he takes selfies to keep tabs on any changes in his physique and also because, “no sweaty dude will ask another dude to take a pic of him at the gym.”

Boayue posts his selfies on Instagram and other social media sites, and he’s certainly not the only one.

According to the Pew Research Center, at least 80 million hashtagged #selfie posts have appeared on Instagram since the app started in 2011, and 91 percent of teens have posted a photo of themselves online.

In fact, a quick Google search reveals ten million results, including websites like Selfie.org, which allows people to sell their selfies for money.

Experts say people post selfies for multiple reasons, such as self-love and self-confidence, but some argue that selfies could be a form of self-obsession.

In a recent Marple Campus poll conducted by The Communitarian, which asked 25 students, “Do you think taking selfies is a form of self-confidence, self- obsession, or a little bit of both?” 28 percent of students said selfies are a form of self- confidence, 12 percent of students said it’s a form of self-obsession, and 60 percent said it’s a little bit of both.

Students believe selfies can be a fun way of expressing oneself, whether it be a simple smile, or rocking a new outfit that day and wanting to capture the moment.

“If you’re feeling good and confident about yourself, why not take a picture?” asked Christina DiValerio, a communications major.

Dr. Josie Howard, M.D., a board- certified psychiatrist agrees.“[Selfies]

can be empowering,” Howard says in an interview with Refinery29 online. “Some women use it as a way to control how their image is portrayed in social media, which is completely fine.”

Twelve percent of students think selfies are a form of self-obsession. “I think taking one or two selfies a week is okay, but if you do it every day, it can get annoying to see all over Instagram,” says Justin Bellace, an emergency management and planning major.

According to Howard, “The concern lies when people who are using it to create a personae that will be approved of, i.e., how many Facebook or social media clicks, ‘likes,’ and approvals they get.”

When Alli Gasperetti, a veterinarian technician major, takes her selfies, she says she takes 25-30 pictures, narrows a couple down to her favorites, posts them online, and waits for “likes.”

“I usually don’t think I’m pretty unless I get 20 or more likes on my selfies,” she says. “But if I don’t get 11 likes on Instagram, I delete the picture and feel miserable. I guess you can say it’s attention seeking, but it’s just what I do.”

In a 2013 Teen Vogue article, Psychologist Jill Weber, Ph.D., said there’s a danger that your self-esteem may start to be tied to the comments and likes you get when you post a selfie, and they aren’t based on who you are—they’re based on what you look like.

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The remaining 60 percent of students polled thought that selfies are a little bit of both. Joanne Jao, a student at DCCC, believes there’s a “thin line” between selfies being harmless fun and being narcissistic. “I think it depends on the person and how they view themselves,” she says.

Nevertheless, Howard thinks selfies are “context dependent” and taking selfies depends on how you use them. “If you’re using it as a tool to document feeling good about yourself and you’re just taking mementos of living a great life, that’s fine,” says Howard.

But Howard also thinks that problems arise when people are so busy controlling their image that they miss the moment entirely. “Those seeking reassurance and approval through selfies consistently take themselves out of social interaction,” Howard says.

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