Selfies, social media and self esteem

Across the globe more than a million selfies are taken every day and many are self-altered or retouched to present a picture perfect portrayal on social media. It’s a trend that’s troubling eating disorder support groups who say it’s vital people understand you can’t compare yourself to altered images.

Australia has been labelled the “selfie capital of the world”. According to Samsung, selfies made up 30 per cent of all photos taken by 18-24-year-olds in 2013.

A study, conducted by Opinium Research in 2013, asked 2,005 UK adults about their selfie habits. It found more than half of participants had taken a selfie, and 36 per cent admitted to touching up their selfie. 
Skin tone was the most common alternation followed by eye colour/brightness, eye shape and size, a person’s figure and lips.
New apps to touch up your own images before posting them on social have soared in popularity since this survey in 2013.
Loren Byford, a psychologist with Eating Disorders Victoria says we live in an image saturated culture and are presented with dozens of images every day that have been digitally enhanced. 
“The selfies that have been photo shopped [can] reflect an unattainable ideal that would involve an excessive amount of time, money, energy and in some cases, invasive medical procedures that carry a degree of risk,” she says. “Attempting to live up to the idea of the photo shopped selfie would likely involve obsession and disruption to the enjoyment of daily life.”
Eating Disorders Victoria says it’s vital people are mindful that these altered images are not real.
“Some people may mistakenly interpret such images as an attainable ideal and compare themselves to the unrealistic image, [potentially] resulting in lowered self-esteem,” says Byford. 
She says a lowered self-esteem is one of the factors which can contribute to an eating disorder or cause a person to exercise compulsively.
“Having a healthy self-esteem involves acknowledging your inherent worth independent of external images,” she says. “A strong self-esteem plays a protective role in preventing eating disorders.”
Sefie infographic
Byford says while selfies can be fun, it’s more important people focus on what makes us unique and special on the inside like being a good friend, showing respect, being funny or loyal. 

She says education, knowledge and conscious awareness of how images are ‘touched up’ is the key to ensure these touched up images don’t affect our self-perception.
“If people are informed and aware, viewing images that are touched up are less likely to be mistakenly interpreted as something to aspire to.”
EDV’s self-esteem boosting tips:
  • Be educated and informed about the images you view.
  • When viewing altered images, be conscious of what they represent, and what they don’t. 
  • Remind yourself that altered images are not realistic, they have undergone digital manipulation and are not an attainable ideal. 
  • Be mindful of the sources you use to develop your self-esteem and how you enjoy life. 
  • Identify and nurture internal characteristics like kindness, sense of humour and loyalty.
  • Try not to define your personal value by your appearance; value other strengths and attributes instead.
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