The selfie: Narcissism or self-confidence booster?

Oxford Dictionary has defined 2013 with one word: selfie.  Billions of selfies were taken last year, and the trend has even become something of a sport, as people compete to see who can take the most bizarre or interesting picture of themselves (#selfieolympics).

For centuries, people have loved almost nothing more than self portraits. From the ornate oil paintings of the Renaissance elite to the stern black and white photos of early American families, we have always loved to hang and admire pictures of ourselves.  However, selfies have raised this phenomenon to a whole new level.

The front facing cameras in our hands have enabled us to take pictures of ourselves at any place and time throughout the day. And with the advent of Instagram a social media platform seemingly created solely for the purpose of constantly posting pictures of ourselves instead of sharing our thoughts at any given moment, we are now able to provide friends with snapshots of ourselves thinking them. There is much debate to whether this trend is good or bad.

To some, this variety of selfpromotion is the ultimate support of the argument that millennials are selfcentered narcissists who define themselves by how many people that they barely know (or do not at all know) like the pictures they take of themselves.

Others believe that selfies are simply a way of communicating with friends and family, not just through words, but through pictures of where they are and what they are doing at any given moment.

So should you be cultivating your selfietaking habit, or trying with everything you have to avoid the trend?

In a Psychology Today article, Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. says selfie taking walks a fine line. On the one hand they can be empowering selfaffirmations. They can help us appreciate our appearance, particularly if our social media community is complimentary. Of course the opposite is true if they are a less kind crowd. Selfies also help society as a whole to celebrate the everyday person, as opposed to the airbrushed Photoshopped images we are used to seeing.

On the other side of the coin, constantly taking pictures of oneself is quite obviously at least a bit narcissistic, a problem millennials do not really need to magnify at this point, having already been coined the “me, me, me generation” by Time Magazine.  Constantly asking friends and family to admire you by posting these photos can damage your real world relationships with those people. Continually seeking approval based on your appearance can also be damaging.

Drexler says the key component to beneficial selfietaking is moderation (so as to avoid driving your social media circles crazy) and self awareness. If you are ‘incessantly posting selfies because you need validation on your appearance from the online universe, then it may be best to cut back and deal with those issues differently.

As long as your selfies are not overwhelming to your friends, and are simply fun for you, the trend is not nearly as destructive as some have lead us to believe.