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Good news for narcissists. Taking selfies may actually be good for you. In spite of popular opinion that selfies and the people who take them are insecure and vain, taking pictures of yourself can actually lighten your mood and reduce stress.
Selfies have attracted controversy over the past decade as the practice has become more and more popular. Selfies first became a trend in 2005 along with the rise of Myspace. Since then, taking selfies has become so ingrained in our culture, Oxford Dictionary officially made “selfie” its word of the year in 2013. Depending on who you ask, using pictures to share the best parts of yourself may actually go back as far as painting itself, but camera phones opened up the market, making self portraits available to everyone.
Taking selfies really took off with the advent of camera phones. Easy access to a camera at all times was the tool needed for selfies. Websites like Myspace and Facebook became mainstream, encouraging people to take more pictures of themselves to create more complete profiles. In 2010, the creation of Instagram gave the public a place to upload their pictures directly, encouraging the selfie culture. In the same year, Apple released the iPhone 4, with the brand new front-facing camera feature.
This all culminated into a selfie storm, which of course led to mass media demonizing the practice, putting selfies in the same boat as comic books and rock music. 2015 saw 12 selfie deaths before October, meaning that you are more likely to die trying to take a selfie than killed by a shark.
Taking selfies aren’t only dangerous; they’re annoying. Taking selfies at memorials like the Ground Zero Memorial in Manhattan may be disrespectful and offensive, for example.
The University of California, Irvine, published a study over the summer where they concluded that selfies actually benefitted the college students who took them. Over the course of a month, the team conducting the study asked 41 college students to take a picture every day for three weeks. One group was asked to take a picture of themselves, another a picture of something they liked, and the third group was asked to take a picture of something someone else might like and send it to them. They used SurveyApp and MetaApp to track the experiment, and at the end asked the participants for their emotional reaction.
The results were surprising, and run counter to the popular narrative about selfies. An earlier study, for example, posits that people who take selfies are more likely to be self-centered. This study shows that taking selfies helped the participants feel better about themselves, made them less stressful about their college environment, and helped improve their confidence. The more selfies taken, the more the participants began to feel better about themselves. The third group, the study notes, also felt calmer and more connected to others by the end of the experiment.
Selfies, like a lot of new changes that come with technology, aren’t all good or bad. Studies like this show that how we adapt technology is just as important as the tech itself. Selfies aren’t going away anytime soon, and perhaps these pictures tell us more about ourselves than we think.