Credit: Russia Beyond

Social media has changed the process of many of our day to day activities. People wake up in the morning, and look at their phones. Once breakfast is arranged in the most pristine form it can be, a picture of it is taken. People watch videos on the way to work, and turn to Instagram as a break from that work. However, if the time is right, there is one thing that connects each of these routines—a selfie, so friends and followers know exactly how you feel.

Credit: Ellen DeGeneres

In recent years, generations young and old are guilty of stopping to take a picture. There are a number of songs about the trend—among the most famous, an aptly named “#SELFIE” by The Chainsmokers. With the media perpetuating frequent selfie-taking, a number of companies have come together to develop technology for this purpose, such as compact tripods, 360 cameras, and the infamous selfie-stick that caused so much trouble, Disney banned them from all their theme-parks.

Selfies Old as Time

But all things considered, the concept of a selfie is not a new one. Since the dawn of photography, humans have wanted to capture images of themselves in order to immortalize what they currently are. We can even trace this need to before photography even existed—those with enough wealth commissioned painted portraits of themselves to hang in their homes.

Selfies, however, are accessible to all, and the “reward” of a selfie is far more immediate. In an article on Motherly, one scholar refers to the selfie as a sort of Pavlov’s dog experiment. When one receives many likes and positive comments, the “selfie behavior” is reinforced, and more selfies and taken and posted to get that “reward.” When one receives no response, or even negative response, they are discouraged from taking more selfies. This concept of behavior reinforcing is called classical conditioning.

Credit: The Japan Times

Selfie Addicted?

Social media—specifically Instagram and Snapchat—is the main culprits of the perpetuation of the selfie. The occasional selfie is not a bad thing. Social media gives us an outlet to connect with friends and family that we otherwise may not be able to keep in close contact with. It is nice to be updated on how those we care about look.

It’s the need for a perfect selfie, however, that can cause problems. Many won’t post a picture unless they look the best they possibly can. Everyone has their own tips and tricks for the best-looking selfie—from the best angles, to lighting, to even editing software and equipment. There are hundreds of videos of YouTube that illustrate just how to do that, many over seven minutes long.

Being aware how one looks and being proud of that is certainly a great thing. However, when one becomes to obsessed with appearing the best they can, it becomes detrimental to their psyche. Some people take chunks out of their day and spend a great deal of money on special lights and stabilizers to post one picture on social media. In an effort to get that gorgeous picture, some have gotten into serious accidents and even died, as they are too focused on the photo and not on their surroundings.

It is great to have something to be passionate about. Photography is an admirable art that people spend years trying to perfect. The problem is not the passion. The problem of selfies is the slippery slope to vanity and poor self-esteem. Social media is becoming less about fostering lasting connections and more about ourselves. People take pictures of themselves on the beach and call themselves photographers. Knowing oneself is an admirable thing, but as we get more consumed with topping our last selfie, we start to lose ourselves.