Ah, the humble selfie. One of the most divisive inventions of social media, and yet something virtually everyone with a Facebook account or a smartphone camera has indulged in. While many think of it as a pure form of self-expression and a way of boosting self-esteem and self-image, new research has potentially revealed that men who indulge in selfies on a regular basis may be much more likely to score higher on the psychopath rating scale.
In research conducted by a team at the Ohio State University, they found that men who reported a higher rate of selfie-taking and sharing were more likely to have higher than average psychopathic tendencies, while the act of self-moderating and editing said selfies is related to higher rates of narcissism and self-objectification, which in turn can lead to much higher rates of self-harm and body dysmorphia.
Fortunately, while being addicted to taking a selfie isn’t ideal, it doesn’t actually lead to the psychopathic tendencies — it’s simply correlated with them, meaning that you won’t start to develop more elements of psychopathic behaviour with every selfie you take.
In addition, these fluctuations occurred in what is considered to be a “normal” range of psychopathic tendencies within men, so we’re certainly not expecting an upsurge in Patrick Bateman wannabes in the Tinder and Instagram-friendly crowd.
The leader of the research group, Jesse Fox, had this to say about her study:
“We know that self-objectification leads to a lot of terrible things, like depression and eating disorders in women… With the growing use of social networks, everyone is more concerned with their appearance. That means self-objectification may become a bigger problem for men.”
Fox is currently looking into the effects of modern social media on the personalities of women, in a companion study to her and her team’s recently unveiled research.
Interestingly enough, the two “problems” associated with selfie-taking outlined in the Ohio State University’s research has pointedly divided in their treatment of how they view and treat photographs.
People with higher psychopathic tendencies were much more likely to post their pictures directly to their social media channel of choice, as psychopathy is generally considered to have a much higher correlation with impulsivity and on-the-fly decision-making in line with a psychopath’s lack of empathy.
Self-objectifiers, on the other hand, spent a significant amount of time analysing, curating, and extensively editing each of their photos in their online presence so as to best show off their best side, angle, and overall appearance within the photograph — symptoms which have a high correlation with lower self-esteem and perfectionist tendencies.
When speaking to the Telegraph, Fox expanded on the study’s results:
“Psychopathy is characterised by impulsivity,” she added. “They are going to snap the photos and put them online right away. They want to see themselves. They don’t want to spend time editing.”
She added, “We know that self-objectification leads to a lot of terrible things, like depression and eating disorders in women.”
“With the growing use of social networks, everyone is more concerned with their appearance. That means self-objectification may become a bigger problem for men, as well as for women.”
However, self-objectification is on the rise amongst both men and women, and anything that raises the likelihood of this happening is far from good for your self-esteem and mental health. Our culture already thrives on telling people that our ideals should be airbrushed to within an inch of their lives, and that if their lives don’t exactly match up to the impossibly high standards of society, we’re failing somehow and should strive even harder to do so, even if doing so strains our psychologically wellbeing.
Our advice and the advice of others in the field? Maybe start curating your social media preference a bit when it comes to the humble selfie. How about limiting the selfies to maybe once a day if not once a week? It’s advice we’ll be taking on board.