The Selfie Paradox: Nobody Seems to Like Them Yet Everyone Has Reasons to Take Them. An Exploration of Psychological Functions of Selfies in Self-Presentation.

Published on Jan 17, 2017in Frontiers in Psychology
· DOI :10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00007
Sarah Diefenbach15
Estimated H-index: 15
(LMU: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich),
Lara Christoforakos2
Estimated H-index: 2
(LMU: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)
Selfies appear as a double-edged phenomenon. Taking, posting, and viewing selfies has become a daily habit for many. At the same time, research revealed that selfies often evoke criticism and disrespect, and are associated with non-authenticity and narcissism. The present study (N=238) sheds further light on the somewhat contradictory phenomenon of selfies and their psychological value. In addition to previous studies on selfies and personality traits, the present research explores relations to popular, habitual self-presentation strategies, self-reflections on own and others' selfie-taking behavior, selfie-related affect, and perceived consequences of selfies, by applying a combination of self-constructed and existing scales (e.g., habitual self-presentation scales (Merzbacher, 2007), Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (Watson et al., 1988)). Our findings confirmed habitual self-presentation strategies as a relevant factor for understanding selfies: Participants scoring high on self-promotion (promoting one's strength and abilities) and self-disclosure (revealing one's feelings for earning sympathy) felt especially positive while takings selfies, whereas understatement was correlated with negative feelings. Nevertheless, self-presentational motives were rather attributed to others' selfies than to own selfies. Moreover, others were assumed to have more fun and positive feelings while taking selfies whereas own selfies were judged as more authentic and self-ironic. Altogether, participants expressed a distanced attitude towards selfies, with stronger agreement for potential negative consequences (threats to self-esteem, illusionary world) than for positive consequences (e.g., relatedness, independence), and a clear preference (82%) for viewing more usual pictures instead of selfies in social media. The revealed selfie-bias, i.e., the systematic discrepancy between judgments on own versus others' selfies, and the reported critical attitude towards selfies allows multiple interpretations. Taking peoples' statements literally, selfies should have never become as popular as they actually are. On the other hand, the selfie bias may fulfill a psychological function. Perceiving one's own selfie behavior as self-ironic and only half-committed, allows to fulfill self-presentational needs without feeling narcissistic. In conclusion, we suggest that the playful and somewhat ambiguous support of self-presentation may be a key factor for the success of selfies. Relations to biases and mechanisms from social psychology, limitations of the present study and implications for future research are discussed.
Figures & Tables
  • References (34)
  • Citations (16)
📖 Papers frequently viewed together
119 Citations
90 Citations
54 Citations
78% of Scinapse members use related papers. After signing in, all features are FREE.
#1Christopher T. Barry (USM: University of Southern Mississippi)H-Index: 25
#2Hannah Doucette (USM: University of Southern Mississippi)H-Index: 3
Last. Lacey L. Herrington (USM: University of Southern Mississippi)H-Index: 3
view all 5 authors...
56 CitationsSource
#1Yongjun Sung (KU: Korea University)H-Index: 22
#2Jung-Ah Lee (KU: Korea University)H-Index: 6
Last. Sejung Marina Choi (RMIT: RMIT University)H-Index: 9
view all 4 authors...
Abstract Photo sharing on various social networking sites (SNSs) has become an important part of the online social experience. SNS users utilize various types of pictures, particularly selfies (pictures one takes of oneself), to display their personalities, lifestyles, and preferences. In this study, we identified the motivations that drive selfie-posting behavior and examined the roles of the selfie-posting motivations and narcissism in predicting selfie-posting behavior. Our findings first rev...
67 CitationsSource
#1Seong Ok Lyu (Dongseo University)H-Index: 11
While disseminating self-related information and travel selfies via social network sites, many tourists strategically adjust photographic images to manage their impressions. With a sample of Korean female tourists, this study aims to examine the underlying nature of strategic self-presentation behaviors characterized by women's personal efforts to edit and package their travel selfies posted on social media webpages. The results of this study indicate that several elements of self-objectificatio...
27 CitationsSource
#1Agata Błachnio (KUL: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin)H-Index: 17
#2Aneta Przepiorka (KUL: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin)H-Index: 17
Last. Edyta Bałakier (KUL: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin)H-Index: 2
view all 4 authors...
Abstract Facebook is an increasingly popular online platform for communication, entertainment, and information exchange. Recent studies have shown that there is a relationship between loneliness and Facebook use patterns. The main aim of the study was to examine whether the use of different types of self-presentation styles, the need for privacy, and loneliness are related to three aspects of Facebook use: standard Facebook use, addiction to Facebook, and entertainment. The participants were 550...
23 CitationsSource
Abstract The purpose of this study was to examine the predictors and consequences associated with Instagram selfie posting. Thus, this study explored whether body image satisfaction predicts Instagram selfie posting and whether Instagram selfie posting is then associated with Instagram-related conflict and negative romantic relationship outcomes. A total of 420 Instagram users aged 18 to 62 years (M = 29.3, SD = 8.12) completed an online survey questionnaire. Analysis of a serial multiple mediat...
35 CitationsSource
#1Siân A. McLean (La Trobe University)H-Index: 18
#2Susan J. Paxton (La Trobe University)H-Index: 60
Last. Jennifer Masters (La Trobe University)H-Index: 9
view all 4 authors...
Objective Social media engagement by adolescent girls is high. Despite its appeal, there are potential negative consequences for body dissatisfaction and disordered eating from social media use. This study aimed to examine, in a cross-sectional design, the relationship between social media use in general, and social media activities related to taking “selfies” and sharing specifically, with overvaluation of shape and weight, body dissatisfaction, and dietary restraint. Method Participants were 1...
54 CitationsSource
#1Katrin Tiidenberg (TU: Tallinn University)H-Index: 7
#2Edgar Gómez Cruz (University of Leeds)H-Index: 7
This article explores the relationality between women’s bodies and selfies on NSFW (Not Safe For Work) tumblr blogs. We consider the way selfie practices engage with normative, ageist and sexist assumptions of the wider culture in order to understand how specific ways of looking become possible. Women’s experiences of their bodies change through interactions, sense of community and taking and sharing selfies. This article provides an empirical elaboration on what sexy selfies are and do by analy...
68 CitationsSource
Abstract “Selfies” are amateur photographs people take of themselves, usually with a smartphone. Sharing selfies on social media has become a popular activity, prompting questions about its psychological meaning and dispositionally-relevant motives. This study was performed to examine the association between narcissism, a personality trait characterized by inflated self-views and attempts to seek attention and admiration from others, and frequency of posting selfies on social networking sites. I...
90 CitationsSource
#1Piotr Sorokowski (UWr: University of Wrocław)H-Index: 10
#2Agnieszka Sorokowska (TUD: Dresden University of Technology)H-Index: 17
Last. Katarzyna Pisanski (UWr: University of Wrocław)H-Index: 14
view all 6 authors...
Abstract Although many studies have investigated individual differences in online social networking, few have examined the recent and rapidly popularized social phenomenon of the “selfie” (a selfportrait photograph of oneself). In two studies with a pooled sample of 1296 men and women, we tested the prediction that individuals who score high on four narcissism sub-scales (Self-sufficiency, Vanity, Leadership, and Admiration Demand) will be more likely to post selfies to social media sites than w...
119 CitationsSource
#1Katharina Lobinger (University of Bremen)H-Index: 6
#2Cornelia Brantner (University of Vienna)H-Index: 6
The digitization of photography, the introduction of small, affordable photographic devices, and the seamless integration of photography into networked mobile communication have transformed photography into a ubiquitous and vernacular everyday activity (Hand, 2012; Rubinstein & Sluis, 2008). Visual self-representation is an integral and important part of current networked photographic practices (Autenrieth, 2011; Mendelson & Papacharissi, 2011; van Dijck, 2008), producing image types such as “on...
18 Citations
Cited By16
#1Jessica F. Saunders (U of C: University of Calgary)
Last. Sabrina Aguilar (FIU: Florida International University)
view all 3 authors...
Abstract Selfies, or self-portraits taken on mobile devices, focus the viewer's attention on the subject's face and body, potentially objectifying the subject. Indeed, previous research finds that frequent taking and sharing of selfies on social networking sites correlates with high levels of self-objectification and disordered eating. However, evidence also suggests that the sharing of selfies has the potential to be positive and empowering for users. One population that may experience the dual...
#1Valentina Boursier (University of Naples Federico II)H-Index: 4
#2Francesca Gioia (University of Naples Federico II)H-Index: 3
Last. Mark D. Griffiths (NTU: Nottingham Trent University)H-Index: 94
view all 3 authors...
Abstract In contemporary society, social media use has become a widespread daily activity, especially among adolescents, who are often engaged in visual content sharing. Taking and posting selfies on social media is one of the most popular activities associated with teens' social media use, representing a useful tool to increase their self-presentation via others' approval. However, higher exposure to visual content on social media might lead to more social comparisons and appearance concerns re...
#1Graham G. Scott (University of the West of Scotland)H-Index: 9
view all 2 authors...
The hyperpersonal model of communication was conceived in the 1990s and has driven much of the research into online impression management. Based on four principal tenets (increased control, asynchronicity of communication, increased physical distance and reallocation of cognitive resources) it has largely received empirical support, especially by research involving text-only communication. This review briefly summarises this research before identifying four areas in which it is not supported by ...
#1Nicola Bruno (University of Parma)H-Index: 22
#2Stefano Uccelli (University of Parma)H-Index: 1
Last. Elisa De Stefani (University of Parma)H-Index: 9
view all 5 authors...
Using conceptual tools from semiotics, proxemics, and sensorimotor neuroscience, we propose a duplex model for understanding selfies as non-verbal communication involving an interplay between two layers of interaction: human - media (semiotically primary) and human - human (secondary). We suggest that this approach has promise as a tool for understanding this newborn form of human social behavior and its social, psychological, and neural underpinnings. To support our claim, we do several things....
#1Yuhui Wang (RUC: Renmin University of China)H-Index: 6
#2Xiaochun Xie (Northeast Normal University)H-Index: 3
Last. Li Lei (RUC: Renmin University of China)H-Index: 10
view all 6 authors...
Although recent studies have documented that narcissism is associated with selfie-posting behavior, little is known about the mediating and moderating mechanisms underlying this relation. The present study aimed to examine whether body satisfaction mediated the relation between narcissism and selfie-posting behavior, and whether this mediating process was moderated by attitude toward selfie-posting behavior. A sample of 382 Chinese young adults completed questionnaires on narcissism, body satisf...
3 CitationsSource
#1Brandon Eddy (UNLV: University of Nevada, Las Vegas)H-Index: 2
Last. Katherine M. Hertlein (UNLV: University of Nevada, Las Vegas)H-Index: 18
view all 2 authors...
AbstractThe transition to parenthood is an exciting time for couples; however it also presents unique challenges. Many couples use technology to navigate these challenges and to stay better connect...
#1Ohad Fried (Stanford University)H-Index: 8
#2Jennifer Jacobs (UCSB: University of California, Santa Barbara)
Last. Maneesh Agrawala (Stanford University)H-Index: 57
view all 4 authors...
1 CitationsSource
#1Valentina Boursier (University of Naples Federico II)H-Index: 4
#2Francesca Gioia (University of Naples Federico II)H-Index: 3
Last. Mark D. Griffiths (NTU: Nottingham Trent University)H-Index: 94
view all 3 authors...
Abstract The current use of social media platforms by active young users/creators of visual content provides an easy medium to achieve narcissistic goals of self-promotion and attention-seeking, and to socialize with self-objectification experiences. One of the most popular activities associated with social media use is selfie-sharing. Particularly, the global focus on online physical appearance approval could reinforce selfie-engagement as a specific body image-related behavior, potentially ass...
2 CitationsSource
#1Robert T. Cristel (UIC: University of Illinois at Chicago)H-Index: 1
#2Steven H. Dayan (UIC: University of Illinois at Chicago)H-Index: 22
Last. Parker T. Russell (MU: University of Missouri)H-Index: 1
view all 4 authors...
BACKGROUND: Selfies and filtered selfies are becoming more prevalent throughout society and in the facial plastic surgery clinic. The term "Snapchat dysmorphia" has been used to describe patients seeking procedures to look like their selfie or filtered selfie. This is particularly frequent in the Millennial population, aged 22 to 37 years. OBJECTIVES: The authors sought to determine the effects on first impression from different photograph types: selfies, filtered selfies, a rear-facing smartpho...
1 CitationsSource
#1Jing Yang (THU: Tsinghua University)
#2Jasmine Fardouly (Macquarie University)H-Index: 12
Last. Wen Shi
view all 4 authors...
: With the visual turn in online communication, selfies have become common on social media. Although selfies as a way of self-representation provide people with more chances to express themselves, the adverse effects selfies could bring to users’ body image need to be treated seriously. This study tested whether selfie-viewing behaviour on social media was related to facial dissatisfaction and whether appearance comparisons played a mediating role. Moreover, the self-objectification was examined...