Bad News For Selfie Lovers: Selfitis Is Now A Genuine Mental Disorder

With social media sites like Snapchat and Instagram and HD cameras on the back of pretty much every phone these days, it’s not surprising that the selfie trend has exploded as much as it has. But when does taking selfies go from a cute way to make memories to a full-blown obsession? Researchers have studied the act of selfie-taking and, according to New York Post, have confirmed that it’s a real mental disorder.

  1. The “selfitis” hoax of 2014 may not have been that far off. Back in 2014, national and international news sources claimed that selfitis, or the obsessive taking of selfies, was classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder. While that may not have been true, real scientific research was done in response to the hoax. They even used the same three levels introduced by the fake news: borderline, acute, and chronic selfitis.
  2. Scientists have been trying to prove technological addictions since the ’90s.  Coincidentally, research for technological addictions were sparked by another hoax, which established criteria for “internet addiction disorder.” The idea turned into research about internet addiction, mobile phone addiction, etc. The idea isn’t new and research into selfies goes back two or three years. The current study, published by its original researchers Janarthanan Balakrishnan of the Thiagarajar School of Management in Madura, India and Mark D. Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham, UK, lists several different studies that preceded theirs in the realm of all things technological.
  3. Previous research has identified why selfies are so appealing. One theory presented in the paper is that taking a selfie allows one to control his or her own image. No longer do you have to put your Facebook profile picture in someone else’s hands. Others believe it is associated with narcissistic personality traits. For some, selfies gave people worth and attention and allowed them to increase their social attractiveness. Still, the reason for taking selfies doesn’t seem to be a “one-size-fits-all” kind of thing.
  4. The study was thorough but focused. The present study amassed a participant pool of 225 students from India averaging 20.93 years of age. They were placed into three condition groups: borderline, acute, and chronic. Then, the researchers held seven focus group interviews, asking the participants questions about selfies and selfie addiction.
  5. From there, they created the Selfitis Behavior Scale. Using the categories, the Selfitis Behavior Scale was born. From their answers, the researchers created categories behind why one takes selfies: environment enhancement, social competition, attention seeking, mood modification, self-confidence, and subjective conformity. You can take a look at what each of these means in their published paper.
  6. You can take the test. Forbes gives you the chart developed by Janarthanan and Mark, which you can use to determine how each of these factors drives you to take selfies. You’re supposed to read the statements in the left column titled “Feelings When Taking Selfies” and rate how well each statement matches his or her own feelings from one to five. Then, according to the New York Post, you add up your ratings and your score will indicate how likely you are to having or developing selfitis.
  7. The study has its faults. Like any new study, there are some drawbacks to a study such as this, and the duo acknowledges these faults. The research relies on self-reported data, which isn’t the most accurate as they can be subject to biases. For example, if I didn’t want to present myself as selfie-obsessed, I may not be 100% truthful.
  8. Only Indian students were tested. While the paper does mention studies done about selfies in relation to race, they don’t indicate the results of these studies; therefore, it’s difficult to know how these findings would change should they test different races. For now, that aspect needs to be studied more.
  9. They also only tested millennials. Ninety percent of the participants were below 25 years of age, so age was not taken into account. These results may vary once you take that into account. For example, a group of people over 25 may have more of a chance of owning their own business and may take and post selfies to promote it. That too needs to be studied more.
  10. It’s not perfect but it gets the ball rolling. While their research is new and needs to be peer-reviewed, at least they made a significant contribution in figuring out how we tick. Hopefully, more research will help us discover a problem and a cure to fix it. Additionally, selfies aren’t inherently evil, but like anything, you should do it in moderation. Maybe try living life in front of the lens instead of behind it once in a while.
Ginnifer Bronstein is a freelance writer from New York. She enjoys writing about relationships, entertainment, and fiction. Her goal in life is to travel the world and be an accomplished writer, but she'll settle for stopping and smelling the roses.