Is a selfie healthy for body image?
As the no makeup photos spread around social media, there was not only praise, but condemnation for the motivation behind sharing them.
Critics argued that narcissism, not a desire to help and spread awareness of cancer was behind the viral event.
There seems to be a light and a dark side to selfies. On the one hand, a selfie is harmless fun, showing where you are and what you are doing. The other extreme is a ‘selfie addiction’, where sufferers are compelled to take hundreds of selfies a day in the pursuit of selfie perfection.
Although it is easy to assume that selfies are about self obsession and vanity, psychologically they are about self acceptance.
The proliferation of advertising images showing idealised beauty can cause body dissatisfaction in women and girls. Adverts deconstruct women’s bodies, micro focussing on specific body parts, leading us to believe we are under constant scrutiny. It’s no wonder then that when you put a selfie on social media, it’s validating for it to be liked and accepted by your friends.
Selfies have become an integral part of social media, but how healthy are they for your body image? Taking a photo of yourself is neither good nor bad. It’s just a photo. It’s the way you perceive that selfie that can cause body image issues. Selfies become unhealthy when you compare your photo to others and conclude that it isn’t as good. Your body image and self esteem also take a battering when you seek validation for your selfie on social media, and don’t get the outcome you’d hoped for.
Selfies should be fun, recording interesting and enjoyable times in our lives. So how can we make sure that selfies are healthy?
Having healthy fun with selfies:
Question your motivation
Are you taking a selfie for the fun of it, or are you hoping that by posting it on-line you will get some external validation? Understanding your motivation will help you identify any underlying body image issues. Seeking validation outside of you will not lead to positive body image or self esteem in the long term. Learning to love and accept your body has to start from within.
Remember – even selfies are altered and edited
It isn’t just images produced by advertisers that are altered and photoshopped. Even selfies can be edited, and there is an increasing trend for people to alter their images before posting them on social media. Know that there is a high probability that any image you see in the media (social media included) has been altered. Viewing social media photos of others looking ‘perfect’ worsens body image – so don’t compare!
Don’t make comparisons
Comparisons with others whether photographic or in person very seldom leave you feeling good about yourself. If you find that you are constantly looking at photos of your friends on social media and comparing yourself unfavourably, it may be time to take a social media break. Try a break of 2 weeks if possible, and notice how you feel after this period. It’s likely that constant exposure to social media is fuelling your appearance concerns.
Take the focus away from appearance
Selfies are highly visual and in part reflect society’s obsession with appearance. There is more to a person than their appearance – a selfie doesn’t reveal the full person with their personality, achievements and skills. Why not take photos of things other than yourself? A place that you enjoyed visiting, a physical piece of work you are doing, a hobby or interest you love – things that demonstrate who you are, not what you look like.