Is the selfie trend a dangerous phenomenon?

Karl Lagerfeld’s new shop opened in Regent Street last week. Inside the changing rooms customers would find something new. State of the art iPads were installed into the mirrors, allowing shoppers to take a ‘selfie,’ of themselves in the outfit they were trying on, and send it to their friends.  This action combined with the recent ‘no makeup selfie,’ campaign to fight breast cancer, only confirms the ‘selfie,’ phenomena’s exponential growth and its consistent presence in daily life.

Interestingly older generations often seem to scorn the taking of a ‘selfie’, labeling it as narcissistic and shallow.  The common school of thought appears to be that intellectuals, those who are cultured and generally people who ‘take themselves seriously,’ do not have the time to revel in such vanity. However just by looking at the media in recent months, what we have seen is in fact the complete opposite.  It was only in December when president Obama took a ‘selfie’ with David Cameron and the Swedish Prime Minister Helle Thoring Schmidt, and in August when Pope Franics took the first ‘papal selfie.’ Even at Oxford University, at the event to appoint the new senior proctor, Dr Kate Blackmon, who holds the new title and her predecessor Professor Jonathan Mallinson engaged in the act. So the question remains, if the brightest minds and the leaders of the world today can happily jump on the reflective bandwagon, why shouldn’t we all?

Considering that last year in 2013 the word ‘selfie,’ had become commonplace enough that it was incorporated into the Oxford Dictionary and later in November was hailed as ‘word of the year,’ it would appear that this disease once epidemic is now pandemic. Perhaps many would argue that calling the ‘selfie’ movement, a ‘disease’ is somewhat exaggerated and harsh.  However on March 23rd it was reported that a 19 year old boy had attempted suicide under the pretext that he was unable to look ‘perfect’ for the camera. Articles claim that the teenager Danny Bowman spent up to 10 hours a day snapping ‘selfies’, trying to achieve a certain look, eventually leaving school as his obsession with the front camera in his iPhone grew. While we can take this example as one which is extreme, where a fatal cocktail of low self-esteem, OCD, body dysmorphia and the accessibility of technology was served, leading psychiatrists in the country have announced that dependency on ‘selfie taking’ is now recognized as a mental heath illness.

Indeed we must highlight that those already suffering from pre-existing mental health conditions are at a higher risk of exposure to such addiction.  The psychiatrist involved in Bowman’s treatment reported that over 60% of patients admitted for recovery from Body Dysmorphic Disorder showed a fixation with taking ‘selfies’, since technology has made the action elementary. For those of us fortunate enough not to suffer from such pre-existing issues, the potential to develop an addiction still seems to be relatively low. Perhaps the way to combat a future threat is to exercise moderation, something we are already told to apply in most spheres, whether it be drinking, eating or watching television. In a sense we could argue that the actual capability to develop an obsession must partly result from a vacuum of spare time. Certainly I have found that when at university I simply do not have time to indulge in a personal photoshoot. Adding to a busy schedule is the knowledge that if I were to upload a ‘selfie’ of myself alone, I would be ridiculed by the majority of my friends.  So perhaps some of us are lucky enough to have been subconsciously handed antibiotics to the ‘selfie’ pandemic, whether it is due to the ideas of peers or those emulating from within. However at the rate at which our leaders in politics, fashion and the media are embracing the ‘selfie’, it would appear that the disease will eventually infect us all.  The power of the ‘selfie’ can indeed be seen by the fact that Ellen DeGeneres’ ‘Oscar selfie’ received a record of over 3 million retweets, something incredible considering the next largest retweet was Obama’s announcement of his re-election, receiving only 800,000. Maybe the safest route is to merely be aware of the more sinister side of the ‘selfie,’ as for now all we can do is watch as this craze festers.