Selfie: self-affirmation or narcissism?

Self-affirmation or narcissism? is a frequently asked question about the selfie, both among his detractors and among his defenders.

This week I read a academic article trained by psychologists Valentina Boursier, Francesca Gioia, And Mark D. Griffiths What, through a research work, analyze the selfie phenomenon.

I could also see a video of Dr. in Psychology Todd Grande, very interesting and direct.

If you're one of those people who've ever shared a selfie on your social networks, I already tell you that there is nothing pathological about that.

Do you have little time? I'll explain it here in a minute.

The word "self-portrait" will have little glamour, but that's exactly a selfie

The R.A.E.. introduced the English word "selfie" by Spanishizing it, and they called it a "selfie.", defined as "selfie". I prefer to keep the English word, or already put, call it the old-fashioned way, self-portrait.

In 2017 I was lucky enough to see the best selfie exhibition on the planet, in the Saatchi Gallery of London. There I saw that the first photographic self-portrait dates from nothing less than 1920. Photographer Joseph Byron and his colleague Ben Falk held the camera that triggered the first documented selfie on New York's 5th Avenue.

But self-portraits exist since the fifteenth century. They came with the improvement and cheapening of the mirrors. Then, many painters, sculptors and engravers tried some form of self-portraiture.

It is believed that the "Portrait of a Man in a Turban", by Jan van Eyck, of the 1433, it could be the first self-portrait.

What does the study tell us about the selfie?

The use of social media by active young people and visual content creators provides an easy means to achieve narcissistic goals of self-promotion, attention search and to socialize with experiences of self-objectification (when it is the users themselves who intervene in the network and leave traces of themselves.) 

In addition, the findings confirm the involvement of the Women in the concerns about appearance and practices related to the body image, and in men with the body objectification.

The selfie as self-promotion and attention search

Psychologists conclude that the greatest engagement of the selfies compared to other publications creates a satisfaction in individuals that makes them repeat the frequency of these publications to improve their self-esteem.

Take the test. Look at the Timeline from a young person's Instagram or Facebook, and you will see how the portrait and the selfie abound and hoard most of "likes" and comments. And it's not much different in not-so-young people.

Can selfies predict narcissism?

According to Dr. Todd Grande, beyond narcissism encompassing clinical pathology, there is another subclinical variant that we see every day in many people.

A distinction is made between grandiose narcissism and its opposite, the vulnerable. Vulnerable narcissists are often introverted and reserved. The grandiose are usually extroverts.

And Dr.. distinguishes three phases of narcissism: 

  1. Leadership and authority, related to the desire to gain power. It is not usually pathological.
  2. Grandiosity and exhibitionism, where vanity intervenes, the sense of superiority and self-esteem.
  3. Right to exploitation, which includes manipulation of other people. Here it is already considered a pathology.

In general, narcissism is more common in men than in women, and decreases with age.

As for the selfie, motivations are rarely due to narcissistic behaviors. Most of the time they are done to inform other people, by pure evasion, or to enhance the sense of belonging, compliance, or as part of a job.

Putting the focus on the most common facet, The 2 of exhibitionism, women use the group selfie more than men. Narcissism only refers to solo selfies.

Why we take selfies

30% for reasons that experts qualify as narcissistic, but the 70% remaining is done by sharing connections, boosting self-esteem, to document memories.

Other studies also include attention-gathering, communication and entertainment. Only the need to capture attention could have narcissistic motivations.

A curious feature is that narcissistic behaviors in selfies do not always correspond to individuals with narcissistic personality. The danger is that the repetition of such behaviors can lead to a personality change. And that's what makes it possible to predict possible narcissistic personality from selfies.

In vulnerable narcissism we can find pathology in people who take lots of selfies and do not share them. They are often connected to embarrassing and insecure people.

Typical personality traits in selfie creators

Based on the above, Dr. Large stable relationship of five personality traits with the creation and subsequent editing of selfies: 

  • opening : no association
  • extroversion: there is a positive relationship with the idea of capturing attention
  • consciousness: no relationship
  • Likability: there is a positive relationship with the idea of communicating and creating "archive"
  • Neurotic behavior: there is a negative relationship, make many, do not publish them

As for our personal brand, should we be concerned?

As we have seen, we shouldn't worry if we use selfies as fun, photo archive, self-affirmation or even attention capture.

Yes, we should do it when we get approval from our community in the form of likes or comments become a necessity. In this case, it is advisable to look for alternative sources to promote self-esteem and self-confidence.

Our identity is not defined by likes, neither comments nor followers: that's a key aspect.

One possibility that some social networks offer us today is to eliminate the visualization of the likes, an interesting option in the above case. Our identity is not defined by the likes, neither comments nor followers: that's a key aspect.

The attempt to project an idealized digital image, which does not correspond to the real one, can bring problems of coherence of personal brand. That would mean that when someone "devirtualizes" us they take a disappointment. And in that sense, excessive processing on the selfie image (change of proportions, Slimming, colors, teeth...) it would not be advisable.

Personally, I take few selfies, perhaps because I am already bored to always see the same perspective of myself and prefer the camera of others. Now I use more the "selfie-testimony", the one who attests that I have been with a specific person or persons or in a certain place. Here's a good, controversial example of "selfie-testimony" during Hillary Clinton's campaign against Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton (2016) by Barbara Kinney
Photo taken by Barbara Kinney, Hillary Clinton's campaign photographer on 2016

In conclusion, the idea is that taking selfies doesn't have to be a symptom of narcissism, but part of something natural in a society where technologies allow us to share moments instantly. So answering the title question: Selfie: self-affirmation or narcissism? I bet by self-affirmation.

Stock Photos from Master1305 / Shutterstock

Here's the podcast. You can hear it iniVooxSpotifyApple Podcast AndGoogle Podcast.

Suscríbete al blog
In addition to receiving the news in your email every month, llévate gratis el ebook:

The best of 2022 and trends 2023 in Personal Branding

by Guillem Recolons
ebook Personal Branding 2022-23 by Guillem Recolons

4 thoughts on "Selfie: self-affirmation or narcissism?”

  1. Very interesting and documented as always Guillem. I would like to add that, as the personal brand, the interpretation of the selfie depends on others so we are always in the hands of whoever looks at our selfies. It would be interesting (and brave) that a person ask their audience what they think of their selfies, if they convey self-affirmation or narcissism to you. You think we'll see some of these surveys on Linkedin ?

    • Hello Joan! It would be the million dollar question, without a doubt. Often, suppose is not the best way, and it's worth making sure with well-requested feedback. Thank you for participating!

  2. As usual, Guillem to comment on your good post. Since we have a smarphone in our hands we have the power to do with it what we want, that yes always with education and respect for oneself and for others. Too many selfies we see in network and not only in network but when we go down the street, then we distinguish the one or the one that is taking a selfie, No?

    I totally agree that a selfie is the documentation or proof of an action as a promotion, autobombo. For me it has a limit, and is that if we do too many we can get tired to our audience and more if it is only the photo without contributing anything else. So consistency, prudence and discretion that are important details in the personal brand of each one.

    I agree with Joan's comment and that is true depends on the interpretation that others make of that selfie. I don't rule out seeing that hearing., on instagram you already see something like this.

    I'm not selfies either, few I have. What I am from is when I am someone… off smartphone and enjoy the conversations we have, like the one you and I had the day we met sharing our experience. It is true that then at the end we captured the moment of being together but neither of them made the gesture of extending the arm but a third person came into play, we've met and it was better, Truth?

    A hug,

    • Hello Mirka! I know people who prefer the selfie to a portrait made by someone with a certain criterion. There have to be tastes for everything, but here we are again in the old use and abuse discussion (and to establish the border). Thanks for adding!


Leave a Comment

  I agree with the privacy policy

Basic information on data protection

Responsible » Guillem Recolons Argenter

Purpose » Management of doubts and customer services

Legitimation » Consent of the interested party

Rights » You have the right to access, rectify and delete data, as well as other rights, as explained in the additional information

Additional information » You can consult additional and detailed information on Personal Data Protection on my website