The humble selfie, eh? One of the most divisive social media inventions, and yet something that almost everyone with a Facebook account or a smartphone camera has dabbled in. While many people think of selfies as a form of self-expression and a way to boost self-esteem and self-image, new research suggests that men who take selfies on a regular basis are much more likely to score higher on the psychopath rating scale.
A team of researchers at Ohio State University discovered that men who reported a higher rate of selfie-taking and sharing were more likely to have higher than average psychopathic tendencies, while the act of self-moderating and editing said selfies is associated with higher rates of narcissism and self-objectification, which can lead to much higher rates of self-harm and body dysmorphia.
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While being addicted to taking selfies isn't ideal, it doesn't actually cause psychopathic tendencies — it's simply associated with them, which means you won't start to develop more psychopathic traits with each selfie you take.
Furthermore, these fluctuations occurred within what is considered a “normal” range of psychopathic tendencies in men, so we shouldn't expect an increase in Patrick Bateman want tobes in the Tinder and Instagram-friendly crowd.
Jesse Fox, the research group's leader, had this to say about her study:
“We know that self-objectification leads to a variety of negative outcomes, including depression and eating disorders in women… With the increased use of social media, everyone is more concerned about their appearance. As a result, self-objectification may become a bigger issue for men.”
Fox is currently conducting research on the effects of modern social media on the personalities of women as a follow-up to her and her team's recently published findings.
Surprisingly, the two “problems” associated with selfie-taking identified in the Ohio State University study are sharply divided in their approach to how they view and treat photographs.
People with higher psychopathic tendencies were much more likely to post their pictures directly to their preferred social media channel, as psychopathy is widely thought to be associated with impulsivity and on-the-fly decision-making, in line with a psychopath's lack of empathy.
Self-objectifiers, on the other hand, spent a significant amount of time analyzing, curating, and extensively editing each of their photos in their online presence in order to best show off their best side, angle, and overall appearance within the photograph — symptoms that are strongly associated with low self-esteem and perfectionist tendencies.
Fox elaborated on the study's findings in an interview with the Telegraph:
“Impulsivity is a hallmark of psychopathy,” she added. “They're going to take photos and upload them to the internet right away. They want to be able to see themselves. They don't want to devote time to editing.”
“We know that self-objectification leads to a lot of terrible things, like depression and eating disorders in women,” she continued.
“With the increased use of social media, everyone is more concerned about their appearance. That means self-objectification may become a bigger issue for both men and women.”
Self-objectification, on the other hand, is on the rise in both men and women, and anything that increases the likelihood of this happening is bad for your self-esteem and mental health. Our culture already thrives on telling people that our ideals should be airbrushed to within an inch of their lives, and that if their lives don't exactly match up to society's impossibly high standards, we're failing in some way and should strive even harder to do so, even if it strains our psychological well-being.
What is our advice, as well as the advice of others in the field? When it comes to the humble selfie, you might want to start curating your social media preferences a little more. How about limiting your selfie-taking to once a day, if not once a week? This is sound advice that we will follow.
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