If you enjoy posting selfies on social media but dislike scrolling through others’ selfies, then this is for you.
In a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers surveyed 238 people living in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland regarding their motives and judgments when taking and viewing selfies — a topic that has become a “contemporary cultural phenomenon.”
The researchers discovered that 77 percent of the volunteers took selfies regularly, and yet 62 to 67 percent of the same participants believe selfies can have negative consequences on self-esteem. In addition, 82 percent of them want to see other types of photos on social media — a conclusion the study author named the “selfie paradox.”
The investigators summed up the three common reasons for posting selfies: self-promotion; self-disclosure (sharing something private while looking for sympathy); and understatement, where “someone portrays themselves and their achievements and abilities as unimportant.” Interestingly enough, the participants viewed selfies taken by others as being less authentic, yet felt theirs were more authentic.
“This may explain how everybody can take selfies without feeling narcissistic,” Sarah Diefenbach, a professor at Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, stated in a press release. “If most people think like this, then it is no wonder that the world is full of selfies.”
“There are multiple reasons why people continue to post selfies, and that’s because they come from different needs and different perspectives,” Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist and author of Your Best Age Is Now, tells Yahoo Beauty.
The No. 1 explanation stems from people’s desire to share their personal narrative. “When you’re putting up an image of your life, you’re telling the story of what you’re doing and trying to give it meaning,” Ludwig states. “Most people want to feel important and feel that their life matters, so on some level, you’re hoping to be validated, acknowledged, or admired.”
Ludwig adds that posting self-perceived flattering selfies offers the opportunity to “present our idealized self. We’re finding ways to feel good about ourselves, which can be a creative process.”
Along the same lines, someone who habitually posts selfies could be doing so as a way of coping with a dull period. “Everybody has moments of boredom, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of — it’s a part of life,” continues Ludwig. “But some people are more bored than others, and I think it’s also a way to not feel bored and to not present their life as boring — but they may in fact be presenting just that!”
Also, posting selfies may feel like a safe route for showing off your latest achievement — without saying so. “Verbally, people may not feel comfortable bragging about themselves, but pictorially, they feel different,” she says. “It’s just easier to share a photo than to make a statement.”
And then there’s the notion that many people tend to follow the crowd. “We are influenced by what we see, what’s around us, and what is considered the norm,” Ludwig says.
However, there could be a downside to being a selfie queen, such as dealing with possible online backlash. “If someone is putting too many selfies out there, it looks like a desperate attempt to get attention,” states Ludwig. “So you always have to be aware that for every photo you post, there may be some negativity that comes you way.”
If you’re looking to keep your selfie habit in check, Ludwig suggests pausing before posting. “You have to be wise enough to almost be your own publicist,” she explains. “Ask yourself, ‘How much is too much? How might people respond to it?’ and answer to the best of your ability. Because depending on how you use social media, it really is like a self-promotional page or a family-promotional page.”
She also stresses the importance of establishing some boundaries when it comes to what you share on your Facebook/Instagram/Twitter account. “We have boundaries to protect ourselves,” concludes Ludwig. “But on social media, there are no boundaries, so we have to doubly protect ourselves.”