Aim, Shoot, Selfie!

With the selfie craze consuming adults and children alike, we explain the advantages and disadvantages of selfie taking, what’s behind the selfie psychology and more.

By Team ParentCircle  • 17 min read

Aim, Shoot, Selfie!

Is your child gripped by the selfie fever? Is he always keen on clicking the best selfie? Are you, as a parent, worried about your child’s selfie obsession? In the world of photography today, the selfie phenomenon has become a norm rather than an exception. Be it a birthday party, a family get-together, a festival celebration, or just a simple meet-up with friends, the occasion is deemed ‘incomplete’ without selfies. Thanks to smartphones and social media, you can shoot and post a selfie without much ado. However, there are several pros and cons of selfies and we, as parents, need to make our children aware of them. In this article we cover the truth behind selfie psychology, advantages and disadvantages of selfie-taking and more.

The selfie phenomenon

‘Selfie’, declared word of the year in 2013, is an extension of yourself. Whenever you decide to shoot a selfie, there is an innate urge to present yourself in the best possible way. And it never stops with a single selfie. After the first image is posted online, shared, re-tweeted, tagged, liked, and approved by your friends with emoticons, you go for the second one. It becomes addictive in no time.

The selfie craze in today’s world is evident from the fact that even celebrities from all walks of life post selfies regularly. Today, gadgets like 'selfie toaster' are available in the market to feed the growing appetite for selfies. This appliance renders selfies on slices of bread through steel inserts, which imprint your selfie onto your favourite toast.

Apart from friends and family, the selfie phenomenon has seen people getting cosy with lions and tigers in recent years. Alarmed at the mindless craze for selfies with wild animals, a New York Governor was forced to sign a legislation that makes it illegal to capture selfies with wild cats!

When it all started

As much as we’d like to believe, selfie is not a 21st century phenomenon. At least, the idea of selfies has existed from the old ‘Kodak’ era. Prior to the digital era, photo booths in railway stations and airports helped capture selfies. The era of the 1950s and 60s witnessed an exciting trend of Polaroids, which allowed you to take an instant selfie and share it with friends. Polaroids were probably the first means to share images on the fly.

In the late 1960s and 70s came the SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras with timers that made the selfie-taking process much simpler by ruling out awkwardly captured moments. In the 80s and early 90s, the lightweight compact cameras were held at arm's length to capture the selfie. The big moment in the world of photography came in the late 90s with the invasion of the digital cameras. They took the world by storm and negated the need to visit a studio to develop a roll of film since the camera enabled instant review of images.

At the turn of the millennium, many things changed. In 2004, images tagged #selfie were noticed on Flickr for the first time. But it was the smartphone that created a selfie rage.

At present...

It may sound staggering, but data reveals that over 1 million selfies are taken each day, which accounts for close to 700 selfies every minute. Studies conducted by indicate that globally, 50 per cent of men and 52 per cent of women enjoy taking selfies; 14 per cent of selfies are digitally enhanced and 36 per cent of the selfie-loving crowd admit to altering their selfies. Most of the selfies are shared on Facebook (48 per cent), followed closely by WhatsApp (27 per cent), Twitter (9 per cent) and Instagram (8 per cent).

According to statistics released by a leading smartphone brand, selfies constitute 30 per cent of the photos taken by adults in the 18-24 age group.

"For me, child photography is always about action and emotion. I hate it when children are stationary. I like to catch them in motion, interact with them, but then, make them rest for that perfect family photo. Most of the time when we take photos, parents scold the kids for not looking straight, or for looking somewhere else – and in the making of a perfect picture, everybody gets imperfect. There’s one interesting pose which works great for the kids. The kids love it and most of the time it works very well for the photographer too. I call that pose a ‘Fevicol’ pose. The moment I say let’s do the ‘Fevicol’ pose, kids start listening to me. They start looking at me, and I, with my action, tell them to just imagine there’s ‘Fevicol’ on their tummy and their mom’s tummy or dad’s tummy or sister’s tummy. I make them hug and tell the child to imagine that they are sticking together. Once they understand what the ‘Fevicol’ pose is, they think it’s interesting, and like to do it.
Many times, I talk to the family before a shoot. Once I asked the kids in the family what they liked and what they wanted – one said he wanted to be Kung Fu Panda, and the other one said he wanted to be a footballer. So, I took the required props with me for the shoot and got the Kung Fu Panda pose and the footballer pose. They loved it and cooperated with me. Doing a little bit of research on what the child likes or what his interests are gets the child to pose better."

Selfie psychology

Following are some of the reasons behind the selfie obsession:

Attention-seeking needs

Psychiatrist Dr Kunal Kala of premium rehab centre Mind Plus Retreat says that attention-seeking needs and peer influence among youth are the main reasons causing social networking addiction and selfie-addiction as a by-product. “We are certainly taking the selfie-trend too far. There is a strong emotional need especially among the youth to be dramatic, to be different from others and hence the limits keep getting pushed. Activity on social media is at its zenith. Putting up selfies on Facebook and other social networking sites allows people to enjoy instant love. As they start comparing comments and likes on their pictures, the need to be unique and to be the most talked about increases.” Needless to say, it is not just plain dangerous but also fatal as we can see from recent cases. “Even if not fatal, the youth get so preoccupied with these things that they get distracted from life goals,” he adds.

Body image issues

Not just across the world but also in India, there is an alarming increase in the number of deaths due to wrongly attempted selfies. And, hold your breath, it’s just not that. Intense selfie addiction is leading to complexes about body image. In fact, many experts have warned that selfies tend to create body image insecurities among young women, especially teenagers. So when you find your young daughter comparing herself with images of her friends shared online, you know that it is time to address the issue.19-year-old Danny Bowman’s mother realised in time that her son was so obsessed with selfies that he kept taking around 200 pictures of himself every day and even tried to kill himself by overdosing because he couldn’t take the perfect shot and felt he didn’t have the ‘perfect’ look. He was taken for psychiatric help.

Lack of family communication

Family communication is decreasing in the age of social media and that can be singled out as the most important reason leading to such behaviour where one seeks instant gratification on a public forum. Dr Kala says, “It's important for parents to have good communication with children on a regular basis. That keeps them grounded and they are less influenced by their peer group. Also, when such news comes it's better to discuss it neutrally rather than lecture them. It's better to ask their view about that situation rather than impose your views.” 

Emotional adjustment issues

The notional happiness that one gets with favourable comments and likes leads to emotional adjustment issues. Selfie-takers suffer from mood swings if their posts are not liked and commented on by many. Dr Kala adds, “Various levels of selfie addiction are a part of emotional adjustment problems and self-esteem issues among young people. When they face academic problems and failures, for instance, then such an addiction gives them a temporary happy feeling which gets further reinforced by praise and attention from friends.” Dr Kala adds that such extreme craze for selfies could lead to a confused and complicated mental state. Dr Devaki V, a Chennai-based Counsellor, says, “Posting selfies online can have a psychological effect on the children when their posts do not get any likes or comments. I've come across many such cases. It isn't bad to take selfies, just that we need to limit it when necessary.”

Advantages and disadvantages of selfie

What goes into the mind of the person with selfitis? Researchers have identified few factors why an individual is obsessed with taking selfies.

Advantages of taking selfies

It boosts self-confidence: Those who suffer from low self-esteem and confidence level take the help of selfies and social media to boost their confidence. 

It gets you attention: With series of selfies on social media, youth generally try to seek attention. especially instant gratification on a public forum.

It improves the mood: For many, posting a selfie is a feel-good factor. Studies reveal that many youngsters religiously post selfies just to uplift their mood. 

It boosts the sense of belonging:  With almost everyone posting their selfies on social media, one doesn't want to be left behind. It helps identify with the community and social group one is associated with. People post selfies to be socially competitive, to fit in with those around them, and to connect with the environment around them, while some others want to create a record of memories.

Disadvantages of taking selfies

Causes distraction: The process of taking a selfie can be very distracting. Instead of being present in the moment and being aware of their surroundings, people focus on how they look, which angle is the best for the photograph and whether the background looks good. It's all about the self and taking selfies makes you less aware of what's happening around you.

Hinders the learning process: When you travel to a new place or go for a new experience, it's all about immersing yourself and learning something new. Taking selfies ruins the learning process because individuals focus more on looking right rather than exploring the place or learning something new.

Can be dangerous: With the selfie culture catching on, more and more youngsters are always looking to outdo each other to see who takes the best selfie. So, they often put themselves in dangerous situations in an attempt to 'look cool'. This has led to many selfie-related deaths in the recent past.

"Indian weddings are usually 3 or 4-day events. They have different themes for every day. Few seasons back, we had most weddings based on the theme of a historical movie that was released then. There are weddings where for the bachelors’ night party we have the James Bond theme and everybody comes dressed as Bond, wearing black suits. On wedding days, they mostly don’t have themes, but have a colour code. They will have coloured themes in bright red, brick red, or yellow,which are mostly inspired by Bollywood movies. The themes keep changing, and of course, they are mostly in trend with Bollywood. But, we have also done Greek-style weddings, and an engagement party with a fairy tale theme. Today, couples show a lot of interest in choosing different themes, and it changes with every season."

Why you must scan selfies shared online?

Most people post selfies online with the belief that it will interest a select group of friends and well-wishers. However, the World Wide Web enables complete strangers to access and view the images that one has shared online. And this is exactly why the concept has become a cause for concern for many selfie-loving enthusiasts. As a parent, you must be aware of the social media sites your children visit to share selfies.

Dr Devaki says, “There are more disadvantages to selfies than advantages. The only major advantage I can think of is that it makes for good memories. You can always go back and cherish those moments. However, today many people take selfies for anything and everything. They go to a marriage function and meet relatives, but are so busy clicking pictures, that they forget to even talk. All that is left is just the picture. It can also have a psychological effect on the children when they post selfies online and do not get any likes or comments. I've come across many such cases. It isn't bad to take selfies, just that we need to limit them to the time when they are necessary.”

Another disturbing trend that merits the attention of parents is the Teenage Boy Selfie (TBS). In this phenomenon, we find that many teens post selfies of themselves from schools, shopping centres, sporting events and even from their bathrooms! Though many such teens would like to believe that they are asserting their dominance and masculinity in the digital world, the truth is quite the opposite. It shows their lack of self-esteem.

They are victims of the system and turn to their smartphones for comfort when they feel inadequate. As a parent, you must know that your teenage son is only seeking approval from his peers through his behaviour since he does not feel empowered. Sameer, a financial consultant from Bangalore, says, “I live in a huge gated community with over 500 flats and during weekends at our recreation centre, I see many teens just obsessed with selfies. It doesn’t end there. In a flash, the same picture is shared on all the social media platforms. I wonder if they are even aware of the risks involved with it.”

All these selfie addiction insights tell you why you should proceed with caution while posting selfies online. Having said that, ‘healthy’ selfies are also a very exciting way to bond as a family and as a group of friends. So, go ahead, enjoy your selfie moments, with care and love.

Written by Team ParentCircle on 22 November 2016

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