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How Selfies Are Harming People

How Selfies Are Harming People

What started as a harmless fun activity during vacations has grown into a global obsession that is beginning to turn into something quite sinister and disturbing: the selfie! Recent horror stories of how the growing obsession with selfie-taking has led teenagers to even take selfies at gruesome accident sites have highlighted once more how selfies are seriously harming society in general and young people in particular.

What was unthinkable only a few years ago – one only has to think of the global outrage caused by photographs French paparazzi took of Princess Diana’s motor accident site in Paris – is now common practice. The more gruesome the background, the more teenagers seem to enjoy taking pictures of themselves and post them online. The reason? The get-famous-quick-without-talent-and-hard-work syndrome that has gripped the world, ever since the first auditions for shows like “American Idol” “Britain has Talent” or “The X-Factor” have polluted our TV screens. But it is also a growing obsession with body image that prompts millions of Internet users each day to post selfies – often several times a day – online.

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What are we turning into?

What people who have lost the capacity for empathy and compassion turn into, was aptly and shockingly highlighted in Anthony Burgess’s novel Clockwork Orange. Smartphone selfies are already being linked to mental health conditions such as extreme narcissism and Body Dysmorphic Disorder.Psychiatrist Dr David Veal explained the phenomenon’s inevitable results. “Two out of three of all the patients who come to see me with Body Dysmorphic Disorder since the rise of camera phones have a compulsion to repeatedly take and post selfies on social media sites. Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to help a patient to recognize the reasons for his or her compulsive behavior and then to learn how to moderate it,” he said in an interview with the British newspaper The Sunday Mirror.

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Wannabes who don’t want to put in the work

A growing number of psychologists believe selfies are responsible for increases in the statistics for addiction, mental illness, suicide and narcissism. The case of British teenager Danny Bowman, who tried to kill himself simply because he hadn’t taken the “perfect” selfie, highlights the urgency that our kids must learn to do something more proactive with their time than stare at themselves through the viewfinder of their Smartphones. Bowman reputedly spent up to 10 hours a day taking 200 selfies on average to achieve the perfect shot. After his mom discovered him just in time – he’d taken an overdose – Danny stated in an interview with The Sunday Mirror: “I was constantly in search of taking the perfect selfie and when I realized I couldn’t, I wanted to die. I lost my friends, my education, my health and almost my life.” He is now being treated for technology addiction, OCD and Body Dysmorphic Disorder at the Maudsley Hospital in London, where his therapy involves removing his iPhone for intervals of 10 minutes, then to 30 minutes before taking it away for a whole hour.

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Less tweeting, more living

Already public health officials in the UK are warning that people’s addiction to cruising social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook has turned into an illness that sends 100 patients a year to seek treatment. They are no longer living their lives having real experiences; they simply exist to tweet about every nasal hair they’re growing and every breath they take. Expert Pamela Rutledge stated in Psychology Today: “Selfies frequently trigger perceptions of self-indulgence or attention-seeking social dependence that raises the damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t spectre of either narcissism or very low self-esteem.” Addicts like Bowman want to be famous and seek attention, but they don’t want to put in any work to hone a talent they might possess – the public perception of pop stars, supermodels and actors in the media is that these people hopped out of an egg, perfectly formed and utterly beautiful and talented, and they stay in this air-brushed condition for the remainder of their careers. Nobody mentions how long it may take to make Beyoncé or Kim Kardashian look this perfect every day, how many hours they have to spend in the gym to look so fit, and how much plastic surgery goes on behind the closed doors of Hollywood’s most expensive private clinics.

Technology should help mankind to improve, not make us worse than we already are

Selfies have been appearing since 2004, but it was the introduction of Smartphones, especially the iPhone 4, that allowed people to use front-facing cameras on go selfie mad from 2010 onward. The latest annual Ofcom communications report shows that 60% of Britain’s mobile phone users now own a Smartphone. Another recent survey, conducted among more than 800 teenagers by Pew Research Center in the US, discovered that 91% uploaded pictures of themselves online, an increase from 79% in 2006.

Seeking approval from one’s peers by posting selfies is one thing, but many disgruntled teens are using selfies to bully others, taking revenge for perceived wrongs with increasingly tragic consequences. Cyber bullying is on the rise. Taking a selfie with a distraught fellow student or classmate who has just received a bullying text message is just one example of the Clockwork Orange effect selfies have on society. The increase of digital narcissism puts more and more pressure on young people to achieve unattainable goals. They eventually despair when they cannot look like the latest pop sensation, supermodel or famous actor. Unfortunately, the selfie-taking addiction also comes with a total lack of “work ethic”. The wannabe’s expectation of high entitlement and “can’t be bothered to work for it” attitude are lethal, especially when this stance on life and self is constantly reinforced and rewarded by other social media addicts. This distortion of reality does nothing but consolidate narcissism and delusions of grandeur that are setting up young people to fail utterly in life.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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