Selfies and Mental Health

Feb 21, 2020

The practice of taking your own picture,  then posting it to the Internet is a big part of youth culture, but psychologists at the University of Mary Washington say selfies may be a sign of trouble for young women.

UMW Professor Miriam Liss
Credit UMW

You Tube is loaded with videos advising young women on how to take a good selfie.

“You just have to find your good side.  Like this is my good side, but this side is a no!” says one.

Which is why psychology professor Miriam Liss chose to take a closer look.  She and her colleague Mindy Erchull studied 165 female students at their school – the University of Mary Washington.  They found some girls took as many as 30 selfies  before posting one.

“They're thinking ‘How does my body look?  Is my tummy looking big, are my arms flabby, does my nose look too big?’" she explains. "We’re often putting ourselves in a state of self-objectification.”

And that could lead to serious psychological problems: eating disorders, depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, a loss of a sense of flow, which is the ability to be in the moment and enjoy what you’re doing.

So Liss advises people not to make such a big deal about selfies.

“The trick is to increase self-acceptance, self-kindness, self-compassion, even when you’re imperfect,” she explains. “The conclusion of our paper said your first selfie is your best selfie.”

The study is published in the journal Sex Roles.  

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

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