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Dr Neha Bhave Salankar is an MD in Psychiatry, who works as a Consultant Psychiatrist in Nagpur. Neha in her column decodes 'selfie, various levels and how it affects one's self-esteem...
“Chal beta Selfie le le re” brings to mind the image of Salman Khan gyrating on screen while worshipping Bajrangbali (connection between lyrics and context not understood). The selfie has made an appearance in several Hindi as well as English songs. This article is an offshoot of my previous article Millennials’ Internet overindulgence exposing them to multiple risks and I will be dissecting selfies here. ‘Selfie’ has become a global phenomenon. So much so that it has been incorporated into the dictionary and Oxford Dictionary named it ‘Word of the year’ in 2013. Twitter declared 2014 as ‘Year of the Selfie’ after Ellen DeGeneres posted a star-studded selfie, which instantly went viral and even caused Twitter to crash. Till date it is the most retweeted image ever!
So what makes a selfie so alluring? People have always been fond of getting their own pictures clicked. However, the advent of front facing cameras in smart phones gave birth to the new phenomenon. The ease with which multiple photographs can be clicked (and discarded) and edited is unparalleled. There are several types of selfies: the famous duck face selfie (prompting millions of people to pose as if they are eating invisible spaghetti!), the car selfie, the pet selfie, the groupie etc.
Researchers have found that clicking selfies gratifies (please bear with the technicalities) the Grandiose and Narcissistic urges. Selfies have been described as empowering that promote a sense of well being and being in control. Selfies are clicked in a manner that accentuates attractiveness of the persona. People, mostly adolescents, post these pictures online and develop an ‘addiction for approval’ in the form of more ‘likes’ or positive comments. Conversely, disapproval or trolling can result in severe low self-esteem. This contributes to an identity crisis, more severe in adolescents who are grappling with two identities: virtual and real.
People have become addicted to selfies. Researchers have classified 3 levels of Selfitis: Borderline (at least three selfies a day but not posting on social media), Acute (at least three selfies a day each posted on social media) and Chronic (taking photos round the clock and posting at least 6 a day). The first selfie related death occurred in 2014 when a man accidentally electrocuted himself on top of a train. Since then, several such incidents have been reported such as people falling off buildings, toppling off boats and even being run over by trains!
On a parting note, for better or for worse, selfies are here to stay. It is important for adults to aid the correct use of both technology and media in adolescents as well as be aware of it themselves. As Charles Dickens said “Vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess.”