Selfies lower self-confidence and increase anxiety about one’s looks
Think twice before you take that selfie. Selfies are notorious not only for causing injuries and death among people lost in the act of clicking themselves with a phone camera, they also have disastrous psychological impact, leaving selfie-takers feeling more anxious, less confident, and less physically attractive. The feelings of inadequacy are intense enough to drive many of them to undergo cosmetic surgery to change their facial appearance. These are the findings of a landmark study conducted by The Esthetic Clinics involving 300 patients who presented themselves at its branches in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad for cosmetic surgery procedures.
The study found that people posting selfies untouched without using any filters saw a significant increase in anxiety and decrease in confidence. Those posting untouched and even retouched selfies also experienced a significant decrease in feelings of physical attractiveness. Generally, taking and posting a selfie on social media resulted in lowered mood and worsened self-image. Participants who had the opportunity to retake and modify their selfie before posting it to social media still experienced decreases to mood and anxiety. Significantly, majority of people posting selfies wanted to undergo cosmetic surgery and procedures to change their looks.
Given that men and women between 16–25 years of age spend up to 5 hours per week taking selfies and uploading them to their personal profiles, these findings have clinical implications for the prevention and treatment of mental health difficulties and raise significant concern about social media use and well-being.
Said renowned facial plastic and facial cosmetic surgeon Dr. Debraj Shome, Director, The Esthetic Clinics: “This first-of-its-kind study in India, conducted across four cities, has found that the process of taking, altering and posting selfies negatively affects self-esteem and body image perception, and promotes body dysmorphia. There is significant negative effect of taking and posting selfies on changes to mood and feelings of physical attractiveness. Patients who took and posted selfies reported feeling more anxious, less confident, and less physically attractive afterwards. Harmful effects of selfies were found even when participants could retake and retouch their selfies. We found that the act of selfies being taken and posted contributes to significant feelings of inadequacy over looks, and a strong desire to change looks through cosmetic surgery and procedures. We as doctors have a duty today society, to think about the welfare of society. If we don’t take care, India will also become like California in the USA, where a large portion of the population consider cosmetic surgeries”
Said Dr. Rinky Kapoor, cosmetic dermatologist and co-founder of The Esthetic Clinics, “Social media interactions have become the new normal. The camera in the phone has ironically become the reason why the phone sells! It is well known that selfies are a risk to one’s life and limb, with hundreds of people dying or sustaining injuries while taking selfies. This study has now shown for the first time that selfies have an adverse psychological effect on one’s personality too. The impact is even more devastating on people with low self-esteem who take to social media to engage in public behaviour with reduced risk of disgrace and social anxiety. We cannot find any upside to the act of taking selfies, and strongly recommend that the Government seriously consider banning front-facing cameras in mobile phones. There is also a need to launch a nationwide campaign to discourage people from taking selfies.”
Added Dr. Debraj Shome, “Posting selfies to social media has adverse causal effects on the self-image and mood of young women and men, and could make them more vulnerable to clinical eating, mood swings and anxiety disorders. Frequently taking selfies could be considered a body checking behaviour, such as repeated weighing and recurrent checking of one’s reflection in mirrors. This should be considered a risky online health-related behaviour in terms of mental health, especially if it triggers weight and shape dissatisfaction.”
The findings about negative psychological impact of selfies on people were the most marked in Delhi, followed by Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, in that order, both for men and women. In the overall India study that observed behaviours of people after posting their selfies on social media platforms, 60% men and 65% women showed an increase in anxiety. Of all the respondents, 61% men and 70% women recorded a decrease in confidence after posting their selfies. There was significant decrease in feelings of physical attractiveness in 61% of the men and 67% of the women, leading to a desire to change looks through cosmetic surgery in 62% men and 65% of the women studied.
In Delhi, 68% men and 82% women showed an increase in levels of anxiety after posting their selfies on social media, and 71% men and 80% women showed a decrease in self-confidence. Their feelings of physical attractiveness also recorded a dip, with 76% men and 77% women feeling dissatisfied with their looks. This led to a desire to change looks through cosmetic surgery in 64% of men and 77% of women in Delhi.
Dr. Debraj Shome added, “High body dissatisfaction is the primary risk factor for the development of eating disorders and is correlated with low self-esteem and depression. Interventions that aim to diminish or eliminate the harmful effects of social media engagement on one’s psychological makeup need to be validated and implemented. Addiction to phones and selfies may create a mentally unstable next generation”
The Esthetic Clinics founders, Dr. Debraj Shome and Dr. Rinky Kapoor, are known for their immense contribution in the fields of plastic surgery and cosmetic dermatology respectively. They have revolutionised many healthcare processes to further the reach of cutting-edge treatment among people from India as well as overseas.