Selfie Mental Illness??? The Good and Bad of the Selfie

We all have heard the claims that selfies cause mental illness. Truth be told, the amount of narcissistic tendencies that are derived from focusing entirely on our own self can’t be good. But we forget that selfies have existed since the dawn of time, we always were staring at our reflection . We were always obsessed on how we look to others… the problem is that it is exacerbated a million times through social media. The problems are bigger than selfies because we live ina  society that objectifies us and places a value only on our physical selves.

But we have heard a lot of these arguments over and over. Perhaps I can only see what selfies have done in my personal experience. Perhaps it is an interesting study on some positive aspects of the selfie. Before I started to ” selfie” I hated taking pictures of myself. You would have trouble finding me in ANY picture and if you did it mainly was me in the background being as inconspicous as possible. It was me allowing myself to be overpowered by others.  I hated taking pictures because sometimes I didn’t like the way they came out, because others were taking them. I had no control on the image that was produced.

When I started doing things like online dating or meetup groups or increasing my writing profile, I was finding that few pictures of myself existed. I started to take pictures of myself. Instead of seeing my flaws, which etched around me in every corner I saw my strengths. I didn’t see the big nose and large pores but I started to see my smile. I didn’t see my squinty eyes and large forehead but saw my pointy eyebrows and quizzical eyes.

I started to be more confident in how I looked. Yet even in the positive side, I also was become less aware of others around me. I was always content to look around me in coffee shops, to see who was walking about in the train. I always wanted to remain unseen. Yet when I started to see how I looked I started to wonder how others saw me. This is a dangerous game to play . We will never know that answer. I think this is the deepest problem with selfies and social media in general. We think we can solve what others are thinking based on comments, likes , dislikes. Humanity is far more complex than that.

FOr now, I remember that a picture is just a faded fleeting moment of who I really am but I should never shy away from it.

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The Noise of Smartphones after A Year Away

For 1.5 years I did not own much of a cellphone. And even when I did,  it didn’t have internet. I didn’t really need it, I worked from home and pretty much connected through there whenever I wanted to. The point , though , was I was disconnected for awhile. Having so many friends in different countries and not having things like Whatsapp or Viber could sometimes be annoying but I managed all right.

I did not do this out of some statement to the world to go against technology, I just couldn’t be bothered. It was a time of silence. In that time, I read 300 books. In that time, I came to listen to my inner self . It was quiet, it was solace in some ways. I didn’t really miss it

I noticed how attached people were to their devices. I was intrigued how it is now the norm to talk on your cellphone while you are going out with someone and no one considers that rude. I was looking up instead of a screen, and sometimes I felt like I was the only one.

However, when I moved to Boston I found that is virtually impossible now to live without being ” connected” to a cellphone. I couldn’t get proper directions without a GPS, I couldn’t text properly without a smartphone and I couldn’t take pictures or be online.  In the end, getting a smartphone was a no brainer.

 

What I didn’t expect was the huge shock this produced in my daily  life and how a series of adjustments occurred in the process.  I was also intrigued how different it is to start using text, photos and videos when you hadn’t really done so for a long time. I still find the whole process jarring. There are times when I purposely don’t turn on any of my devices to try to get a certain amount of solitude.

1. The Noise Factor

After installing the numerous devices on my phone including all the dating apps, text apps, games, facebook messenger, skype, etc  I was avalanched by a torrential sea of messages. The phone was never quiet. I could never get a moment with my own thoughts. Instead I was bombarded by half written messages that most people forgot five minutes after they wrote them.  Even an expert multitasker such as myself would get overwhelmed. On average, I would get about 50 messages a day .  I wonder how much of a quality amount of time we can spend with all the people around us if we are only writing a couple of sentences a day. I am not opposed to texting or chatting but it is such an impersonalized means of communication. We are literally talking to a computer screen all day. As much as I try, i can’t seem to get totally involved in it except for a couple of people .

2. The Selfie factor

I hated taking pictures of myself. It was just one of those things that made me self conscious. I found that by having devices where I could take more pictures of myself I got more confident, but in so doing I became hyper aware of what I looked like at all times. It was a weird dichotomy. It was also an awareness of how others might perceive myself based on the feedback of others.  I was externalizing my self image based on what others thought of me. I can see how a lot of self objectification happens in young girls with this.

 

3. Losing time

I noticed that I wasn’t reading as much as I used to. There were more distractions, more apps more things to occupy my time. 

4. Ephermeral nature of Texts/ contacts

I guess this is limited to people you meet online but I noticed how quickly people come in and out of your life and how easily people just stop contacting you . They don’t even offer an explanation they just simply disappear. It’s almost as if by doing this you are negating that I ever existed in the first place. On the same coiin, with the aforementioned noise around me I am sure I have done the same thing with others.

5. Documenting your life isn’t living it

A lot of times we feel the need to document what we do but sometimes we spend an inordinate amount of time appearing to do something rather than doing it. I remember in October going out with a friend who was here visiting, he decided to go to to the Charles River . It was sunset and the golden leaves of fall were dissolving into reds and oranges as the sunset deepened. What did he spend his whole time doing? Taking pictures and posting it on facebook.

 

I guess I don’t regret having a smartphone, but I can’t begin to think some of the things I am losing in the process. I know what it was like not to have it, and I have to always remember that I don’t NEED it to be happy.