Science Links Selfies to Narcissism and Addiction

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It used to be that having a good-looking yearbook photo was the main concern of the young and the vain. With the advent of social media, young people, in particular, are under a lot of pressure to look good online.

Enter the selfie: The self-photograph that can get out of control.

Self-portraits are nothing new. Artists such as Vincent van Gogh have used paint and canvas to create “analog selfies” for hundreds of years. In fact, van Gogh created more than 30 self-portraits between the years of 1886 and 1889.

The word “selfie” didn’t even exist until the year 2002. The term specifically refers to the use of a digital camera to take a self-portrait. Because digital cameras (or smartphones with cameras) can take pictures so quickly and easily, selfies have become a staple of the modern online landscape.

Selfies have also spawned an entire selfie product industry, with selfie sticks, remote controls, and even selfie drones flooding the digital market.

At the same time, selfies have gotten a bad reputation for being something that “narcissists” do. Taking a self-photograph isn’t always an exercise in self-love. Sometimes it is simply a convenient way to take a photo when no one else is around to take the snapshot.

But if a person wakes up in the morning, brushes their teeth, showers, and then takes 10-20 selfies to choose which one to post to Instagram that morning, it might just be a problem.

The Difference Between a Healthy and Unhealthy Selfie

Posting too many selfies to Facebook and Instagram is not only linked to narcissism, it can become an addiction. Some selfie addicts have even tried to commit suicide when unable to get just the “right” selfie.

What is the difference between simply taking a selfie and a selfie obsession?

1. Healthy Selfies Are Taken Infrequently

While there is no hard and fast rule on how much is too much, selfies definitely become problematic if they are posted too frequently. Posting a selfie on Facebook once every few months is very different from posting a new selfie every few hours or every other day.

2. Healthy Selfies Often Include Other People, Animals, or Landmarks

Selfies that aren’t all about self-aggrandizement will include other people, pets, or areas of interest…and maybe the person taking the “selfie” isn’t the focus of the snapshot.

3. Healthy Selfies Often Have a Purpose

For a business owner who is trying to teach or share something useful or positive, taking selfies (particularly video selfies) may be part of the business. There is a fine line, however. Some “businesses” consist of people posting vanity shots to Instagram and making money off of their large followings. Recently, some popular Yogi accounts on Instagram were exposed as frauds.  

The Many Downsides of Posting Too Many Selfies

The irony of selfies is they are often posted on social media to make a person “look good.” In fact, they often generate the opposite effect than what was intended.

Here are a few downsides to posting too many selfies:

1. Selfies Can Become an Addiction

Selfies can become addictive if people who constantly take selfies think that having “likes” is a measure of self-worth. Each time a new like is posted, it can be like a hit of cocaine to a person desperate for positive attention. The irony is that incessant selfies actually make people less likable.

2. It Can Hurt Relationships

The selfie addict needs to know: Research has shown that posting too many selfies makes people like the selfie-poster less.

3. It Can Hurt Job Prospects

Likewise, too many selfies can also put a question mark in a potential employer’s mind about hiring an individual.

Read:  How to Keep Your Job in the Midst of Narcissistic Abuse

3. Too Many Selfies May Create an Impression of Narcissism

The stereotype is that people who post selfies are “full of themselves” or outright narcissists. Often, however, someone who posts too many selfies can have low self-esteem.

According to one study, men who post a lot of selfies may be suffering from narcissism, but this is not as true for women. Either way, the irony is this: A person posting selfies because they desperately want to be liked is actually hurting their chances.

High Value, High-Status Facebook Posts

Now that selfies have gotten a reputation for being a sign of narcissism or self-aggrandizement, some are advocating for a different approach. Often discussed in pick-up artist forums, the concept of a “high value, high status” Facebook post refers to crafting intriguing, interesting Facebook content that lures people in without it appearing to be driven by a need for attention.

The concept has even spawned online courses about how to create an engaging Facebook persona that can even help garner dates (for women looking for a “high-value man”).

Of course, if such techniques are used more and more frequently, chances are people will see through them as a way to manipulate opinion. However, a more restrained approach to social media posting will probably get better results than an overindulgence in selfies.

With Selfies, Moderation is Probably Best

The old adage “less is more” most definitely applies to selfies and social media. A modest, respectful approach to posting self-portraits on places like Instagram may actually get a lot more mileage than constantly posting selfies on a daily basis.

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carol says January 25, 2021

Sons partner put on social media naked photos of her pregnant body post birth after refusing to even contact us ignoring texts not long after we had a disagreement along with a photo of her in leather trousers also after the birth claiming she looked f f bleep good in them with bleep this bleep that. Along with disgusting porn drawings she had sat doing whilst claiming she couldn’t work “why should she give a little of her wages to transport”. She said she was a feminist but would hardly lift a finger. Maybe post natal but a lot of this behavior was well before this.

    Carol says October 22, 2021

    Sorry just to add this. Our son met the partner on a dating apt. The photo shown was nothing like what she appeared on meeting. Her photo was complete miss representation of who she is. Slim puckered lips sexy pose a model just nothing and I mean nothing. Our son told us she was so happy full of life well let me state after a few months that was certainly not her description. She said she loved the same music as his sister never showed this the same style never showed this in fact mirrored all our family and ended up nothing like any of us.

Dave says February 6, 2018

Well I am a victim and still being victimized by not only my former gf but by the courts.
Unfortunately this Sociopath is a text book reflection that is discussed and topic of.many of Kim’s videos.
I am a victim of gaslighting redirecting or blaming me for her affair and after catcher her false allegations had me arrested.
This Jas been the most grueling and brutal experience in my life and seeing her move on freely setting up victim after victim and her selfies and.manipulating her Facebook to make herself look so grand.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow having lost my freedom and having to wait 14mths before getting a trial to attempt to address the false allegations.
She destroyed my home stole my belongings some very personal with sentimental attachments.
All this because she was having an affair and couldn’t face the shame of facing me and truth.
She has been and has since.been charged for criminal harassment and its all a joke to her.
I have lost 7mths freedom and am dealing with a mother who is dying with cancer.
I appreciate and find so much of your info helpfully and helping understand the 5 w’s and am still suffering because of a loss of.freedom that will last until the end of July.
To see and hear of her of endeavours I feel bad for the victims..
The law of averages will hopefully catch up with her but more victims will suffer.
I suffer daily as I am under curfew very punitive bail conditions and not able to to go out socialize etc..
Worst brutal experience of my existence there is no way to replace time and freedom lost…
However I do enjoy your posts and information and find it very useful and helpful…
Thank you because it is helping me.understand and heal.
Keep up the good work.

Gale says February 1, 2018

I have never taken a selfie! And I have never wanted to. My ex is totally opposite!

Sandy says January 29, 2018

Boy, those selfies showing the person gazing lovingly at their own reflection in the mirror are particularly off-putting to me, cuz they tell me at least two things: the person is definitely in love with their own reflection, and they definitely lack originality and class enough to get beyond their bathroom mirror…yuk! Great post, Kim!

    Kim Saeed says January 30, 2018

    Ha! I agree with you, Sandy 🙂 There’s hardly anything less classy than the bathroom mirror selfie…and especially if they’re taken in public bathrooms!

    Glad you enjoyed the post.

    Kim XoXo

Anonymous says January 29, 2018


I am a survivor or narcissistic abuse. It’s been almost 5 years and you helped me see the light and realize I’m not crazy. I’ve been in a healthy relationship for nearly two years and want everyone to know that there are good and genuine souls out there.

Read the articles available, cut off all contact with the abuser and begin to enjoy life. It can and does happen!!


    Kim Saeed says January 30, 2018

    Thanks for the inspiring input, Cricket! Glad to know you’re in a loving relationship now 🙂

    Kim XoXo

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