Photo by Sole Treadmill.
If you’ve ever looked at someone’s selfie and thought “They are so vain,” you might be making an unfair assumption. A recent study suggests most selfie-takers aren’t into themselves any more than normal people.
The study, led by Brigham Young University researchers and published in Visual Communication Quarterly, found that people take selfies for three primary reasons: they’re either taking them as communicators, as autobiographers, or as self-publicists. Only one of those motivations is actually associated with narcissism.
“Communicators” take selfies as a way to engage family, friends, and followers. It’s basically a conversation starter, which is the digital equivalent of walking up to someone you know, smiling, and saying hello. It’s not vanity, it’s a new way of reaching out.
“Autobiographers,” on the other hand, use selfies as a means to record key events in their lives and preserve significant memories. They like that people can see their photos, but they aren’t necessarily interested in feedback and communication. It’s more like keeping a public photo album. Instead of showing you pictures when you come over, they just make them available online.
Enter “self-publicists.” Now, this is the group where the researchers suggest narcissism can be a thing. They love to document their lives in hopes of showing themselves in the best light possible. Basically, they want you to look at their photos and think they’re amazing, while looking at their own photos and telling themselves that they’re amazing. But, according to the researchers, this is the smallest of the three groups. That means most selfie takers out there aren’t trying to show off or make themselves feel important.
So, if you want to take selfies, do so. Don’t let others make you feel bad about it. The selfie, while a fairly old practice, has gone beyond self-portraiture and become a new way to communicate, catalogue, and commemorate. Of course, that doesn’t mean others will like looking at it. Another recent study, published in Frontiers of Psychology, suggests most people still view the selfie as shameless self-promotion. But hey, haters gonna’ hate, right? Now snap that pic. You know you want to.