Let’s imagine you’re on vacation somewhere tropical. You’ve wandered onto a beach – the sand is soft white and the ocean is crystal blue. Palm trees are swaying in the wind. You’ve never seen such beautiful scenery.
How do you enjoy the moment? Do you pull out your phone, hold it at arm’s length, snap a selfie, and post it to Facebook and Instagram, making sure to add the perfect filter?
Likely, many of us could admit to something like this – myself included.
The term “selfie” was chosen as the “Word of the Year” in 2013 by the Oxford English Dictionary. And it’s no surprise why. The selfie – a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website – has overtaken our culture. Selfie sticks can be bought for the purpose of taking selfies with greater ease. A 2014 song titled “#Selfie” made the Billboard Hot 100.
Taking selfies and sharing them on social media seems fun and innocent – but turns out, it’s not as harmless as it may seem.
Social Media and “Selfie” Harm
The harm that social media has on young people has been well documented. And one study found that social media may be more harmful to girls than boys. Findings showed that young girls are on social media more often than young boys. At age 10, girls reported lower levels of happiness. And as they aged into their teenage years, they reported more social and emotional difficulties compared to boys.
Selfies, in particular, have a negative impact. Studies show that taking and posting selfies online resulted in worsened mood and body image in young women.
In one particular study, some female undergraduate students were asked to take and upload an untouched selfie to social media, some were asked to take and post a preferred and retouched selfie to social media, and others did neither. Women who took and posted selfies to social media reported feeling more anxious, less confident, and less physically attractive afterwards compared to those who didn’t take or post selfies. In fact, harmful effects of selfies were found even when participants could retake and retouch their selfies.
The Benefit of Mindfulness and Gratitude
A great way to combat the negative effects of spending time on social media and posting selfies is to incorporate the practice of mindfulness and gratitude into daily life.
Put simply, “mindfulness” means being fully present in the moment. It means being focused on your surroundings instead of being distracted.
If you’ve wandered onto a tropical beach, being mindful in the moment means feeling the softness of the sand and listening to the sound of the waves, and not being distracted by trying to take the perfect selfie. That way, you’ll draw far more enjoyment out of the moment.
Mindfulness can be practiced in any moment. When spending time with friends, focus on the laughter they bring you. When taking a walk, focus on how it energizes you. When cooking dinner, focus on the great smells in your kitchen.
Don’t be distracted in these moments by scrolling through Facebook or posting a selfie to Instagram.
Practicing gratitude means taking a mental inventory of all that you appreciate. Some people even start each day by writing down in a journal 5-10 specific things in their life that make them feel grateful. And research shows this can increase feelings of well-being.
So, instead of counting the number of likes you get on a Facebook post, count the number of times your best friend has laughed at your goofy jokes. And instead of dwelling over which Instagram filter is most flattering for your selfie, celebrate your body for exactly as it is.
Practicing mindfulness and gratitude in daily life is not always easy. We all get swept up in the busyness of the day and weighed down by the negatives in our life. But it’s worth it to put in the effort – your inner “selfie” (the one that matters) will thank you!
Grace Malloy is a 28-year-old living in the Greater Boston area, with interests in writing, public service, and women’s rights. While working as a software support specialist, she received her Masters Degree in Public Administration – a challenging yet fulfilling experience. She aspires to use her strengths and passions to make a positive impact on her community.