Is “Selfie Syndrome” a Symptom of Low Self-Worth?

selfie syndrome

Love them or hate them, everyone knows about the selfie. There’s no denying the recent trend of taking pictures with your phone’s forward-facing camera.

It’s not that selfies didn’t exist before the advent of smartphones, they did, but rather that walking around with 10-megapixel cameras in our pockets has made self-photography more accessible.


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Though it’s not fair to blame only smartphones. Social media also plays a huge role in the selfie revolution.

As I write this, I could take a picture, add a filter, and upload it to Instagram before you can finish this section.

Snapchat’s even worse. It’s an entire app dedicated to taking selfies.

Not everyone thinks of it that way, but you can’t get more selfie-centric than Snapchat. Well, maybe selfie sticks, but it’s a close race.

Normally none of this would matter beyond millennial culture, but the evidence is mounting that selfies are actually correlated with narcissism and low self-esteem.

Some of the evidence is anecdotal, yes. Though some evidence is also based in statistical analysis.

Regardless of how you reach the conclusion, it looks like selfie syndrome is surprisingly real, and even more surprisingly deadly.

Selfie Syndrome – The Basics

The links between selfie syndrome and narcissism aren’t hard to imagine. After all, narcissism is defined as an excessive interest in oneself.

Taking pictures of yourself all day falls squarely under the definition, even if that’s not your intention.

Doctors are speculating that the connection between selfies, narcissistic behavior, and low self-esteem, stems from teen’s natural desire to feel wanted and accepted.

Middle school bullies and high school cliques push marginalized teens to look for acceptance from strangers over the Internet.

Since the advent of camera phones the link between mental disorders and camera technology has been apparent.

Psychiatrist Dr. David Veale told the Daily Mirror that two out of his three patients suffering from Body Dysmorphia Disorder compulsively take selfies.

While BDD isn’t the same thing as narcissism, studies have linked the two disorders.

Pamela Rutledge echoed this statement in Psychology Today.

She said that selfies trigger perceptions of self-indulgence or attention seeking behavior that indicates either narcissism or low self-esteem.

Now that we’ve established somewhat of a link between narcissism, low self-esteem, and selfie syndrom, let’s take a look at some examples.

Anecdotal Evidence

The lack of concrete medical research on selfies leaves much of the proof for “selfie syndrome” as anecdotal evidence.

This evidence doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutinization, but there’s an old saying that rings true here.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

The most famous case of selfie syndrome stems from teenager Danny Brown and his tragic battle with Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

The United Kingdom teenager sought peer approval through an enormous amount of selfie posts on Facebook. Commenters told the teen his body wasn’t that correct shape to professionally model.

Brown was taking up to 80 selfies every morning before school. His addiction caused him to lose weight, ditch school, and eventually attempt suicide.

Luckily Brown survived, but the apparent selfie syndrome hit home with parents of young teens.

Assuming selfie syndrome eventually becomes an accepted medical diagnosis, Brown will serve as the prime example.

If you look at this case through the lens of narcissism and low self-esteem, he certainly had the latter, if not also an excessive interest in his own appearance.

Scientific Evidence

There aren’t many studies surrounding the link between low self-esteem, narcissism, and selfies. The phenomenon is rather new, so expect more studies to follow in the coming years.

One notable study that we do have was undertaken by the Birmingham Business School.

This study found that people who posted excessive selfies have shallow relationships with other people; a sign of narcissistic behavior.

Another study found that posting on social media (Twitter and Facebook) is connected to desiring large social networks and attention.

That same study also found narcissism was a predictor to increased Facebook and Twitter usage in both college students and adults.

What do people commonly post on social media? Selfies.

A University of Southern Mississippi study showed that nearly everyone within their college population sample posted selfies.

Narcissistic tendencies were also found among some of the people within their population.

These findings combine with the previous study to paint a telling picture about social media and narcissism.

College students frequently post on social media, and these posts are often selfies. Increased social media usage is linked to narcissism, which indirectly links selfies to narcissism as well.

It’s not concrete evidence by any stretch of the imagination, but it aligns with the anecdotal evidence from above.

However, it’s also important to note that the University of Southern Mississippi concluded that the high rate of social media/selfie usage among their population made concrete links to narcissism and low self-esteem scare.

Many variable were at play during the study, and in fact researchers found some negative correlation between selfies and narcissism.

Again, it’s important to remain skeptical until more research draws stronger conclusions.

Summing It All Up

Does selfie taking cause narcissism and low self-esteem? We can’t say for certain, but it certainly looks like a connection is forming.

That doesn’t mean that selfies are somehow evil, or destructive. Rather, we just need to monitor our children’s, and our own, Internet usage for unhealthy behaviors.

People should gain their self confidence not from other people, but from within themselves.

It’s important to teach teens that self-loathing is not the answer. Instead, foster the idea that individuality is good.

No one is “weird” because we’re all different. What society deems as normal varies so much across history and culture that defining “normal” is impossible.

Did you know people used to look upon “fat” people with envy? When food supplies were low those with enough money to eat gained weight.

Today the word “fat” is negative, but centuries ago people wanted every bit of fat you had, and then some.

Don’t let other people get yourself or your family down. Love yourself and embrace your diversity.

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