No Selfies Day Proves How Narcissistic Our Culture’s Become

March 16, 2018

March 16 is No Selfies Day, so put the camera phone away, and try a little self-reflection today, instead. 

“Selfie” was Oxford dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2013. Since then, it’s become a serious preoccupation.

Selfies were involving enough when they first started trending — generally a holding-the-phone-up-to-the-bathroom-mirror type deal — and then grew more obsessive as smartphones became more sophisticated. People were able to really preview their selfie first and then use filters and special effects like cute little cat ears. For some, the obsession turned deadly (selfie-related incidents now top shark attacks when it comes to unusual ways to die!).

Keep this preoccupation in mind (a study in the U.K. revealed that women between the ages of 16 and 25 spend an average of five hours a week taking selfies!), as No Selfies Day is coming up on March 16. I’m currently taking a break from selfies anyway, but here’s how the process was going for me: 1) Hold up phone in many different positions to find my most flattering angle. 2) Continue to try to find my most flattering angle. 3) Feel like giving up because there doesn’t seem to be a most flattering angle. 4) Finally take pic and then blast it with filters meant to be… more flattering. Yes, selfies had become a time-consuming bummer.

And it turns out that it’s not just me — there’s actual research backing up the concept that yes, selfies can make us feel lousy to the point where we decide to stop taking them.

And they’re not an accurate representation of what we look like, either!

“If you notice that you don’t look quite right when you take a selfie with an iPhone or other smartphones, it’s because they have a wide angle lens,” says Matt Carr, a New York City-based professional photographer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, and Rolling Stone, among others.

“A wide angle lens distorts the image and makes things closest to the lens appear larger while making things further away appear smaller — exactly what you don’t want when taking a portrait. I don’t know about you, but my nose is big enough as is.” My sentiments exactly!

There’s also how the mere act of taking and sharing a selfie makes us feel.

“[It] could make people self-conscious and more aware of how others view them. When we become self-aware, we also become more sensitive to the extent to which we are living up to social standards and norms,” Gwendolyn Seidman Ph.D., tells Psychology Today, adding that this awareness is called “social sensitivity.”

Seidman says there is some research about the act of sharing selfies leading to higher self-esteem, but I dunno. Spending my time desperately using Instagram’s Crema filter to lighten my under-eye circles and then sharing it with friends just does not seem even moderately productive, let alone like a one-way ticket to feeling great about myself.

But supposedly, the ego boost from sharing a selfie is because we’ll get positive comments. Again, I feel weird about that. Knowing my pic has been posed and filtered and brightened and tinted makes me feel that it’s not authentic. Getting compliments on an inauthentic photo might be instantly gratifying, but in the end it’s not very rewarding if you feel like you don’t really look like that. (Also, how seriously are we supposed to take comments? What are people going to say, “Not a great pic, better luck next time”? Of course it’s gonna be “Wow u look hawt grl” and then a flame emoji.)

Groupies, or selfies with a group of people, are apparently different. According to a researchers at Penn State University, groupies are linked to high life satisfaction levels because they encourage feelings of community and belonging. But be warned: If you’re taking a group photo, you may want to scratch and claw your way to the middle.

“With group photos the unlucky people on the ends of the group often look larger,” says Carr. “It’s not you, it’s the lens.”

We need — and want — to have our pictures taken sometimes. So if you’re having your photo snapped (or doing the snapping yourself), remember that light has a huge effect on how we look in any photo, selfies or otherwise.

“Light is key, so find a spot that has nice soft light, like outdoor in a shadow or by a window in the office,” advises Carr.

“The person taking the photo should have their back to the window. Avoid sharp lights and shadows, especially fluorescent lights — they can have a greenish cast that can make you appear sickly or hungover.”

If you need to use an iPhone, “at least have someone stand a few feet back to take the photo, then crop as needed,” he says.

Just don’t do it on today; celebrate No Selfies Day with a little self-love, instead.

Image via pinterest.com.

Comment: How often do you take selfies? Why do you take them?

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