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Could Selfies be making us sick?

April 13, 2014

Selfie – taking a picture of yourself and posting it on social media.

OK so before you accuse me of becoming selfie-obsessed I’ll get in first and say ‘why of course I am, isn’t everyone?’

The selfie – good vs evil debate seems to be bubbling up a bit and when our research assistant Rebecca (who is also my lovely sister) posted this on Facebook I thought it was time to open up discussions.

So, the idea behind the BBC Health story is that spending time taking and looking at friends and our own selfies is giving us body image issues. What’s more, they are saying that the more we are exposed to the selfie the worse we feel.

But is that true?

I guess it depends.

There are selfies and there are selfies….

Spend a few moments on Instagram and you will notice lots and lots of pictures of scantily clad young girls and guys, well, mostly girls, looking to accumulate ‘likes’ by looking sexy. This ‘sexy rating’ seems to be in very poor taste but that doesn’t stop it from being popular.  I really liked what Olympia Nelson wrote about the culture of selfies early last year as at age 16 she is the selfie generation.  She summarises that this is an issue of  ‘taste’  and that we should probably question why we have such questionable taste in terms of what we ‘like’ to look at, what we rate and consequently how we pick life’s ‘winners’. The audio discussion with Melinda Tankard Reist is also very interesting.

But it isn’t just semi-naked teens that are getting in on the band wagon and that’s what the original article I cited was talking about.

I am nearly 40 and have taken a few selfies – not in my bikini I hasten to add but selfies nonetheless.

Why do I do it?  For me it is all about getting a deeper connection with my readers, my Facebook friends and other social media contacts. The virtual world allows my network to read me (if they want to) on a daily basis but they rarely see or hear me – I don’t do much on You Tube yet.  It probably doesn’t matter for many of my clients that they don’t see me eating my breakfast or flying away on holiday or getting out of bed or working in the lab but it might matter for some and especially for people who are thinking about engaging my services for a year there is a case for ‘the more info the better’. Even then, those people may not care what I look like per se but they might want to get a more rounded picture of my character before they call and enquire about hiring me.  That’s cool with me.

And I know plenty of other mothers, fathers, unattached adults, professionals and everyone in-between who uses the selfie for this or other such non-sexual social engagements – we are after all a creature for whom a picture paints a thousand words.

After thinking about this I actually feel that teens seeing selfies of their friends and other ‘normal’ people could be quite a healthy thing.  It has prompted a whole generation of interest in photography, photo editing, Photoshop expertise and make-up artistry.  Again, that level of self-obsession isn’t necessary a good thing but once it is out of the system (as it will become for most of the participants) what you are left with is a fair bit of insight into what goes on behind the scenes of a magazine, film set, TV ad or billboard shoot.  I had no such idea and spent many a teary evening crying because my short, muscular legs obviously meant I could never be a pop star (all pop singers had long, slender legs)……

So, Should I take the I phones off my daughters, ban instagram and other such social media tools and lock them away until adulthood for fear that these constant cries for attention that the ‘look at me’ generation is undertaking are putting them at risk of sickness and harm….


What I am going to do is talk to my daughters, culture their taste, expose the dirty downside of selling yourself (and yes, that is what those sexy selfies are doing for you) and encourage them to see beyond the image.

and do you know what?  I’m not even sure that I need to do much of that. My girls are already very switched on to it all.

My youngest daughter called me from her holiday today and asked me to go into her room and look at a message on her notice board.  On my way I saw a new picture on her wall of a pop star idol of hers.  I mentioned that the picture was very lovely, she came back and said ‘oh is that the one where her legs have been stretched on Photoshop?’

Enough said…..

Amanda x





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