Selfie "Disorder" a Hoax

A story has been making the social media rounds claiming the American Psychiatric Association declared the selfie a mental disorder. Sufferers of "selfitis" fall into three categories: borderline, acute and chronic. (I'm guessing I'd easily fall into the chronic category.) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can treat the disorder, the post says, before adding that, luckily, "CBT is covered under Obamacare." But before you buy into the silly sounding disorder, consider the source: The original post came from the Adobo Chronicles. A quick glance at their About page shows it's a site for “your source of up-to-date, unbelievable news. Everything you read on this site is based on fact, except for the lies."

A search on the APA site yielded no results for the term selfitis, and Social News Daily is claiming it's most likely a hoax. Or probably an April Fools' joke? 

The Adobo Chronicles then followed up with a piece saying Samsung, Apple and Nokia are "responding" to the mental disorder by proactively doing away with front-facing cameras on all their upcoming devices. Elaborate stuff. 

Art Form or Visual Update: PBS Idea Channel Takes on the Selfie

Do you consider the selfie an actual photograph, and thus, subject to critique as an art form? Or is it mere visual communication, the equivalent of a visual tweet? In a recent YouTube video posted by PBS Idea Channel, the host tackles this very question, deeming the selfie "an important and meaningful snapshot of the present," before tackling why so many revile the selfie. It's an entertaining and insightful few minutes. Check it out. 

Personally, I view the selfie as a hybrid of the two. While there are plenty of silly, mundane selfies—as there are status updates—selfies (or the better ones, anyway) convey time, place, emotion. They can have intent, and thus, meaning. 

When the early social media adopters first started posting status updates, there was backlash against such posts. Same as with tweets. Over time, updates just became acceptable, commonplace occurrences in our everyday. I'm of the belief that the selfie is the visual update, misunderstood, yet soon to be as pervasive and enduring. 

Selfie Regrets? Eff 'Em.

Photo editing site PicMonkey had Harris Poll conduct an online survey of 2,051 adults, yielding some surprising results: 

  • 47% of those polled admitted to taking a selfie
  • From the 18-34 age group, 40% admit to taking selfies at least once per week, and 10% take them at least once per day (I'd easily fall in that category)
  • 14% of adults 65 years and older admit to snapping the occasional selfie
  • 17% of those polled in the South admit that more than 10% of their selfies are X-rated images (#sexyselfie), compared to only 7%, 8% and 9% in the Northeast, Midwest and West, respectively.

Perhaps unsurprising to some (but shocking to me) is this tidbit about selfie regret:

...Eighty percent of adults who have taken a selfie have shared it publicly, but more than a quarter (26%) of those who have publicly shared one admitted they regretted doing so after the fact. Interestingly, nearly a third (31%) of men regret sharing their selfie, compared to 21 percent of women. Those in the Northeast and Midwest (both 80 percent) are more likely to cop an "all snap and no regret" attitude compared to the South (68 percent), which is perhaps not surprising given Southerners' stated penchant for not safe for work (NSFW) selfies.

And here's where I get a bit miffed. We've been conditioned to overshare our most basic and mundane thoughts and feelings on social media since the days of Friendster, but throw a selfie into the mix and suddenly we are supposed to feel regret or guilt? Not buying it. The selfie is the next logical progression, following wall posts, status updates, likes and shares. 

On my site, I share plenty of pics that don't show me in the most flattering light, or that make me out to be some ridiculously vain narcissist. But I did that for a reason: I'm choosing, in sharing all my selfies from years past, to share ups and downs, as well as vainglorious highs and insecure lows in my life. And I'm doing so because I value the selfie as an art form, as an ongoing visual diary, as a means to share—with anyone who will look—my growth, my missteps, my ridiculousness, my vulnerability. 

So I say thanks for the stats, poll, but #fuckselfieregret. 














Jerry Saltz Weighs In on the Selfie

In the Feb 3rd issue of New York Magazine, art critic and Bravo's Work of Art judge Jerry Saltz tackles the selfie, opining on why it isn't going anywhere, on its merits, and even guesstimating its future. Check it out here. And here's what he had to say about selfies in the future (though he'd opt to replace the term "selfie," I've grown quite used to the word):


It’s easy to project that, with only small changes in technology and other platforms, we will one day see amazing masters of the form. We’ll see selfies of ordeal, adventure, family history, sickness, and death. There will be full-size lifelike animated holographic selfies (can’t wait to see what porn does with that!), pedagogical and short-story selfies. There could be a selfie-Kafka. We will likely make great selfies—but not until we get rid of the stupid-sounding, juvenile, treacly name.

Why the Selfie isn't Going Away Anytime Soon

It's been mere weeks since Oxford Dictionaries declared "selfie" the Word of the Year for 2013, and already the word has shown up on several Words to Ban lists for 2014. Could this mean the official backlash against the selfie has begun and, thus, the selfie will eventually die out? Fat chance. For that to happen, there'd have to be a confluence of events so coordinated and global so as to suggest divine intervention.


For starters, smart devices would have to do away with the front-facing camera. Then there'd have to be some epic Town Hall-esque uproar over the innocuous thing. I'm talking massive hatred and condemnation, political and celebrity figures taking to the soapbox to extoll on the dangers of the horrible, no-good harmful selfie. Finally, all social media profiles would have to stop requiring a profile pic. Or disable liking of profile pics or any uploaded pics. Short of that, you're not going to get rid of the selfie. The older generation may hate them, as they are wont to hate anything from younger generations: The music, the fashion, the drugs, the parties, the politics were all so much better during OUR time, amirite? But just as social media isn't going anywhere, nor are smart devices, the selfie, much to your dismay, isn't going anywhere, either. 

So now that you're stuck looking at selfies for the foreseeable future—from the President, from the Pope, from entertainers and from your colleagues, family members, and even people you don't even like—a few words and predictions on how the selfie might evolve in 2014. 


(It's Not) All About Vanity

The selfie is something the individual controls. Whereas a photograph taken by a friend or photographer might not capture a person in the best light, the shared selfie is one that the individual chooses to represent him/herself with. Because they like how they actually look in the selfie, it gives the person power over how they choose to appear to their network of followers/friends. Particularly with the younger generation, the selfie then becomes a tool for identity/self-esteem building. I think more youth will take more selfies in an effort to have different profile pics. They'll change a pic that doesn't get enough likes, and replicate stances/facial expressions, or even scenery that gets a lot of likes. 

The Next Selfie Fad

As with everything else that's new, we get bored now very, very quickly. Duck lips were a thing for a bit. That, happily, seems to be fading away or evolving. Then there were the dog/cat beards. New fads surface for the selfie often. Maybe the next one will be some provocative pose? Or some stunt-related selfies (the next planking?). Whatever it is, I'm sure we'll know it by its ubiquitously (and eventually overused) hashtag. 

The Celebrity Selfie

It makes complete sense that more and more celebrities are taking to Instagram and Twitter and Facebook to post selfies—they can control the output. While, yes, some celebs do have a small team (read: Instassistant) around to make sure the selfie looks good, it still is, at the end of the day, under the celebrity's control. As such, it is a direct and intimate way to share their own visual diary with their fans, a way of letting fans get closer to them than, say, through the magazine interview, or the glossy photo spread, or the press junket. Plus, as James Franco can attest, share a few selfies and you're also likely have the other parts of your life that you share—paintings, for instance—exposed to your fan base in a more visual and organic way. 

The Artistic Selfie

So basically everybody wants to rule the selfie world. Art imitates life, so I would not be surprised if younger artists and even established artists produce their own artistic selfie, thus raising the bar for everyone to up their selfie game.