Taking Too Many Selfies? You May Have Selfitis

Last updated on August 13, 2021.

Did you take a selfie today? For many people, this happens more than once a day, and it goes straight to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social networking platforms. Let’s be frank: while selfies didn’t exist in the 2000s, they have become so common that they are now an integral part of many people’s everyday life. Why do people take selfies? To pass time, to capture the moment, to share their lives or simply to have fun. Taking a Korean research in 2016 for example, up to 72% of Asian respondents reported that they post selfies everyday.

It sounds unbelievable, right? But as the cliché goes, too much of anything is bad. The same applies to selfie taking — when it grows into an addiction, which often goes unnoticed, it can be detrimental to your mental health.

What is selfie addiction?

Obsessive selfie taking can turn into selfie addiction, or “selfitis”, a term coined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to describe obsessive selfie taking behavior. So here comes the question: how many selfies a day is too many? Two psychologists, Balakrishnan and Griffiths, further categorized selfie addiction into three levels:

Borderline selfitis

Taking at least 3 selfies a day but not posting them on social media.

Acute selfitis

Taking at least 3 selfies a day and posting them on social media.

Chronic selfitis

Having an uncontrollable urge to take selfies round the clock and posting the images on social media more than 6 times a day.

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Why are we addicted to selfies?

Psychologically speaking, there are many possible reasons why selfie taking and posting are so addictive. Obsessive selfie-taking could be the result of a lack of self-confidence, urging selfie-takers to earn respect and appreciation in forms of likes and positive comments by posting their perfect public image online.To many social media users, social networking platforms are the primary site of self-presentation and identity construction. How they are viewed in the eyes of others, hence plays a prominent role in building their self-confidence.

Aside from lacking self-confidence, narcissism may contribute to a higher tendency for developing selfie addiction. In particular, an online survey found that respondents who scored higher in narcissism generally have a higher tendency to pay attention to their selfie-posting behavior, feedback (likes and comments) from peers on social media and selfies of others. 

Some research also associates other factors with the development of selfie addiction, in specific body dissatisfaction, self-objectification, low self-esteem and so on.

Selfie addiction can be detrimental

Mental health problems 

Selfie addiction can result in mental health issues. After posting selfies, selfie-takers often compare their appearance with others or even go too far to change their own appearance following mainstream beauty standards blindly. Some people may feel good about themselves by comparing with others, but more likely, people get discouraged and forget how to appreciate themselves in the endless game of physical comparison.

Even worse, such comparisons may foster a hostile culture on social networking sites and lead to pessimistic attitudes about oneself. As selfie-takers become overly conscious of their appearance on selfies, they may irrationally amplify flaws in their appearance and  dislike themselves for the way they look. Other research also found that excessive selfie behaviour can lead to negative feelings and facial dissatisfaction. And that’s why selfie addiction increases the chance for selfie-takers to suffer from mental health issues, including low self-esteem and depression.

Mental Health in Hong Kong: Seeing a Psychologist

Magnifies the appearance culture

Do you feel more conscious about your physical appearance after posting your selfie? Another problem of selfie addiction is that it magnifies the negative effects of the appearance culture. Appearance culture refers to a cultural practice that the value of an individual is evaluated based on his or her physical attractiveness.

This culture is harmful because it influences people to judge others based only on their looks. Moreover, appearance-based culture also encourages selfie-editing — adjusting the flaws on the face or adding filters with a photo editing app before posting a selfie. In the extreme case, selfie addicts may build up a wrong assumption that the number of likes of a selfie represents the value of a person and consequently belittle themselves. 

Stay away from selfie addiction

Distract yourself from using your phone

One solution to distract yourself from using your phone is to manage the number of selfies you take. If this sounds too hard for you, you may start with reminding yourself to take “no more than five selfies” every day. If you still find it difficult to stop yourself from taking selfies, try to  stay away from your phone if possible. Consider developing an interest in outdoor activities like hiking and swimming to shift your attention from your phone.

Understanding your motivation for taking selfies

Next time when you want to take a selfie, think about why you want to take it first! Taking selfies with friends and family could be fun as long as the habit does not disrupt your normal life. But if you cannot think of a concrete reason for taking the selfie, it is better for you to drop the idea! Understanding the motivation of selfie behavior may help you avoid selfie addiction. Finally, always remember to have a life outside selfies. Never let selfie addiction control your life!

This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.