How Selfies Actually Lower Self-Esteem

The Selfie (you know, a photo taken of oneself), has easily become the most popular type of picture that we see on the internet and in our text message and e-mail inboxes. With most people owning cell phones (including children who, in my opinion, are entirely too young to need one), and most of those people with phones owning one with a built-in camera, photos can be taken everywhere. Constantly.

Does anyone else remember when telephones actually made telephone calls?

I digress. The Selfie has taken on a life of its own. I mentioned in a previous post how Ellen DeGeneres managed to crash Twitter with the most epic group Selfie of all time. Social media outlets, dating sites, and cell phone photo galleries are flooded with self-taken photos and the trend is only going upward.

There are certainly many benefits of the Selfie: no longer do I need someone else to snap a photo of me in order to capture some occasion. In fact, many phones now come equipped with cameras facing the user just for this purpose! One can also send photos wearing two different outfits to a friend from a department store dressing room and ask for opinions without the friend needing to be present.

The sheer convenience is astounding. Remember the days when you repeatedly wished you had a camera with you to capture the moment? No? Well then you’re probably not yet of legal drinking age. Of course there was always the phenomenon that when you actually DID bring your camera, nothing exciting happened, or you only had 24 shots to take on a roll of film and had to be very selective! Not to mention you had to wait days or weeks to see what your photos looked like!

But now, we can capture everything, and review it immediately!

Is there a dark side to this convenience? Are Selfies actually causing more harm than good?

“Guilty,” on both counts. And here’s why:


Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. There have been entirely too many instances of famous individuals, from politicians to athletes and other celebrities, whose Selfies have ended up in the wrong hands or been seen by the wrong eyes. Anyone else wonder what kind of trouble former President Clinton may have found himself in if he served his term now instead of back when The Zach Morris phone was popular?

There are plenty of well-publicized examples of Selfies-gone-bad because they happen to famous people, but I imagine this happens to “regular folks” much more. The reputation that can be ruined or the opportunity lost because of a poorly made Selfie decision is not worth it.


So as long as we remember to keep our clothes on, the Selfie isn’t really so bad, right? Well, you tell me.

“Back in the day,” we used to take pictures because we wanted to remember the occasions that those photos represented. We developed our photos and we put them in photo albums so that we could go back and look at them. Perhaps even show them to other select individuals. Primarily, though, a photo was taken to afford the picture-taker with a visual memory.

Not to mention that we dare not waste precious limited photos on ourselves. (Remember when you attempted the “best friends selfie” only to wait 3 weeks to develop the photo and realize you had really only captured your chin and your friend’s ear and one eyeball? #SelfieFail)

Fast forward to today, and our audience for our photos has changed completely. We no longer take pictures with our future selves in mind. Instead, we take a photo to immediately show others, whether individually or globally. We snap a photo and send it to a friend, a significant other, or post it online so that others can see us.

Because we want others to see us.

Social media in sum can be represented by a child jumping up and down on a trampoline shouting “Look at me! Look at me!” with a bullhorn. We want others to look at us, because that is now how we have learned to feel good about ourselves. The number of friends, followers, likes, favorites, re-pins, retweets and comments in general are directly related to how worthy we view ourselves to be.

We don’t know we are beautiful until we post a picture of ourselves and other people tell us we are.

Because this is not truly fulfilling, however, the effects are short-lived. So we must post again. And again. And get a new haircut and post again. We require constant reassurance and approval from others about how we look and the decisions that we make.

When it comes to one’s body image, this is a very dangerous trend to follow.


Ask any teen or young adult which types of Selfies are the most popular and you will hear one answer repeatedly: the provocative ones.

That new parka you received from grandma is nice and all, but that bathing suit from Victoria’s Secret is going to get a whole lot more attention. You can unbutton the top button on your shirt for 1 or 2 comments, or unbutton the second button as well for 20 comments.

If our worth is tied into how much attention we get from Selfies, and the way to get more attention is to be more provocative, and being more provocative can lead to all sorts of trouble…

Well, you get the idea.

Our eternal “connectedness” with one another has created a society of individuals who heavily rely on others for reassurance and esteem. We are treading water in a rapidly accelerating river flowing directly downhill. Is there any hope of reversing the trend and diminishing the importance of other peoples’ opinions?

I mean, it is called SELF-esteem for a reason.

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Frankly Speaking – 4/28/14

Dear Frank,

I am having a birthday party for my son next weekend and still have not heard from 8 parents, which is about half of everyone that was invited. The RSVP deadline already passed several days ago. Should I call them or assume they aren’t coming? Also, I would like your opinion on why people are not courteous enough to respond.

I am actually going to answer your second question first because I think it will lead us to the first answer together. You’re absolutely right that some people do not have the courtesy to realize they affect other people’s plans when they do not engage as expected. It is easy to say that this is the case for all 8 parents, but there are definitely other possibilities as well.

First, it is possible that some of those parents have been too busy to respond. Balancing family with work and other responsibilities can be overwhelming at its worst (and sometimes mildly stressful at best!), and unfortunately responding to a birthday party invitation does not crack the top of the priority list. That doesn’t mean they do not still intend for their child to attend and in fact still might.

It is also possible that, right or wrong, some of those parents may believe they only need to respond if they are planning on coming. Conversely, some may actually believe they only need to respond if they are NOT coming! This may be the case even if the invitation specifies what the respondent should do! We have a tendency to, even in the face of contrary evidence, assume that other people do things the same way that we do.

There are a host of other possibilities for why some people have not yet responded but a final possibility, and a highly likely one, is that they have simply forgotten. This may not even be related to being busy as mentioned above. In our world of constant communication (e-mail, text messages, snail mail – some people still use that, right?), we can get in the habit of thinking “Oh I’ll get to that later.” Through no fault or malicious intent, we put an invitation aside fully meaning to return to it. Sometimes, we just don’t.

I wrote in a previous article about reducing your frustration when it comes to interacting with other people. It is easy to blame others when they do something differently than you, especially when it goes against what we think is social convention (such as responding to an invitation). What we must constantly remember is that there are often many more potential explanations for someone’s behavior beyond what we first believe to be true.

With that in mind, it is perfectly acceptable to reach out to these individuals to double-check with them about their plans. I have a hunch many of them will be apologetic for not responding and/or thank you for reminding them. Personally, I very much appreciate (and sometimes expect) reminders about impending events.   The person who will become annoyed at this reminder will be in the minority, and may be one of the aforementioned individuals who silently assumed that you should know what their lack of response meant. Understand that this is where they are coming from, say thank you, hang up, and move onto the next call!

“Frankly Speaking” is a weekly segment on this blog that provides an opportunity for my readers to ask questions aimed at better understanding themselves, others, or their relationship with others. Each week I will select some of those questions to answer here. As you can see, the askers of those questions remain anonymous.

To submit a potential question for future installments, the only requirement that I ask is that you first become a fan of my Facebook page. “Like” my page, and then send me a private message with your question(s). Until next week!

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