Maybe you're a selfie taker. Maybe you're a selfie shamer.
Hey, let's not deny it, you've probably taken a selfie at some point. In 2015, Google reported 24 billion selfies were uploaded to their servers.
But what's your first reaction when a selfie pops up on social media? Is that person full of themselves? Are they digging for compliments?
Maybe…but that's not always the case.
Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, argues selfies don't necessarily indicate narcissism. She says they can be an internal aspiration to be better version of yourself — a way of sharing progress you're making in life. They’re a form of empowerment rather than self-absorption.
"We're seeing a maturation in how people use it,” Rutledge said. “It isn't just about people need approval of others. It's a way of sharing because visual information transmits much more emotion, context...all of this information that's really important to a message goes through instantaneously because of how the brain processes it."
Others we asked don't buy it.
"I think self-empowerment doesn't need to be a major campaign because there's enough arrogance in our lives already. We already think enough of ourselves," Andrew Sturgeon says.
"I think it depends on how clever it is. Right? Is there a reason for the selfie or are you obsessed with yourself? They're two different things. If its duck face. Then, next!" Brian Fischer said. "I think it's about where are you in the world. What are you showing me? And how creative did you get with it? If it's just you occupying the field, you just bored me."
But Rutledge argues there are some major positive benefits. Even something as small as taking a selfie with a fresh cup of coffee might remind you of life's simple richness, which you might have not noticed before. She calls it, "mindfulness at that moment” or a way of increasing gratitude and optimism.
So...what's the difference between taking a photo of a flower and taking a photo of yourself with a flower? Rutledge says it helps you remember moments differently. It puts you in context of the memory.
"Images trigger the whole neural network of your experience,” Rutledge said. “Not just the text. Not just flower. It's ‘there I was, here's how I was feeling.’”
And what about group selfies? You know, the ones where twenty people cram together at a party and the person with the longest arm takes the photo.
"Those are the best. Those are acceptable. Always. All the time," says Andy Rocklin.
Rutledge noted, like most things in life, selfie taking is about balance and using it to focus on improving yourself, rather than getting "likes.”
"The wanting other people to validate you is a very normal human process,” Rutledge said. “I mean, we are social animals. It's super important for our survival both physically and mentally that we understand where we fit in our social world. To me, there's really nothing wrong with wanting other people to like your picture."
So maybe it's time to switch the attitude when someone's selfie pops up on Facebook or Instagram. Or perhaps, you can't help but be annoyed by the perceived narcissism? Rutledge has another key reminder.
"It's your choice what you consume,” Rutledge said. “It's not the choice of the sender. This idea that somehow we have to consume these things is wrong. We have to learn to set boundaries online as well as offline."
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