Culture

Posting Selfies Does Not Make You a Narcissist

What do you think of selfies? Wholly negative? Wholly positive? A mix of good and bad? A recent article tell us:

Earlier this year, a pair of researchers at The Ohio State University published their investigation into the relationship between taking selfies and the undesirable psychological traits of narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism, or a penchant for manipulation. The study analyzed the social media habits and personalities of 1,000 men between the ages of 18 and 40.
The results were what you might have expected: the study demonstrated a relationship between posting lots of selfies and psychopathic and narcissistic traits. Not all selfie-posters are narcissists, but the latter are prone to using selfies as a tool of their self-obsessed personalities. Yawn. I suppose, for the sake of thoroughness, some things just have to be formalized in studies, even though we can already figure out the answers a priori.
Selfie supporters don’t deny that the practice can be self-indulgent, but they highlight how the photographs increase the likelihood for personal connection in an age where social interactions predominantly occur online, as reporter Jenna Wortham did in a piece for The New York Times.

“It’s far too simplistic to write off the selfie phenomenon,” she wrote. “Receiving a photo of the face of the person you’re talking to brings back the human element of the interaction, which is easily misplaced if the interaction is primarily text-based.”

Selfies did not cause the phenomenon of the purely Internet-based relationship. Those were around before selfies became common. (I believe such relationships started during the age of AOL Instant Messenger and got worse from there.) In my experience, most selfies are not sent to an interlocutor directly, but posted passively on social media profiles. When the recipient is a specific somebody, selfies can enhance the humanness and intimacy of an online encounter. When the recipient is “everyone,” however, I think this is where the narcissism comes into play.