Narcissism or empowerment? 1.2 billion selfies taken in Britain in 2014

One study found that men who posted more online photos of themselves than others scored higher on measures of narcissism and psychopathy. 

Ed Crisostomo/The Orange County Register via AP
Erica Goodman, from left, 18, Lennon Moore, 14, and Julia Goodman, 14, all of San Diego take a selfie during the 6th annual VidCon held at Anaheim Convention Center Thursday, July 23, 2015, in Anaheim, Calif.

Selfies. We love them, we hate them, and we rarely admit that we take them.

But if we’re being honest, we all have a few on our camera rolls. A recent report from Ofcom, a British-based communications regulator, found that an estimated 1.2 billion selfies were taken in Britain in 2014. Nearly a third of British adults admitted to taking a selfie, with one in 10 doing so at least once a week in a sample size of 3,756.

With a tap of a screen or the touch of a button you can capture yourself grinning from ear to ear, looking moodily into the distance, or popping a classic “duck face.” Instagram users unabashedly share their selfies with the world, using hashtags like #nofilter to promote natural beauty. The hashtag #selfie alone has over 300 million posts.

Are we learning to love ourselves through the lens of a camera, or are we bordering on narcissism?

A January study by Ohio State University found that men who posted more online photos of themselves than others scored higher on measures of narcissism and psychopathy. Lead author Jesse Fox talked about the findings in a news release.

“It’s not surprising that men who post a lot of selfies and spend more time editing them are more narcissistic, but this is the first time it has actually been confirmed in a study,” said Dr. Fox. “The more interesting finding is that they also score higher on this other anti-social personality trait, psychopathy, and are more prone to self-objectification.”

She adds that the research applies to women and that women who post more selfies also show higher levels of narcissism and psychopathy. She describes it as self-objectification.

“[Selfies] may make people objectify themselves even more,” Fox said.

In a 2013 article posted on Psychology Today, Dr. Peggy Drexler said, “It’s like looking in the mirror all day long, and letting others see you do it.” She adds that this can have serious implications and adversely affect your relationships.

But others see the selfie as an empowering digital tool. For artist Molly Soda, selfies are about more than vanity. She spoke about it in a July interview with National Public Radio.

“I think a selfie is a really, really positive thing ... [I]t’s [a] super positive affirmation of self-love. And taking your photo and putting it on the Internet for the world to see is an act of positivity,” said Ms. Soda.

“When I’m scrolling on my Instagram and I see a photo of a girl that she took of herself and I know she’s feeling really good that day about herself, that makes me feel good and makes me want to photograph myself, and I think it’s a chain reaction.” 

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