Indian era of “selfie” regime
India has been witnessing a “selfie regime” for past 18 months. We have a Prime Minister who is nearly obsessed with taking selfies with world leaders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not spared any opportunity to take pictures with his counterparts during his 33 foreign visits. Be it Bhutan, Brazil, Japan, USA, Fiji, Seychelles, Mongolia, or Ireland — a well-dressed Modi always made it a point to use his cell phone and capture himself with the various heads of states.
Modi is so selfie-liberal that when he hosted a belated Diwali Milan for media persons last month at the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters, he allowed many people to click a selfie with him—an act he perhaps enjoys the most while governing India. No other world leader can beat Modi when it comes to taking selfies. Almost one trillion photos are taken every year now. Most of these photos are selfies—self-portraits, usually taken with a smartphone. A little more than 300 million Instagram photos are tagged with the “selfie” label as of now. So what is wrong if Modi takes selfies so often?
The tremendously growing trend to click selfies has become an area of study for many scientists working in the field of psycho-analysis. Certain studies have confirmed that a person who likes to take many selfies needs medical help. A new study has established a link between narcissism and the art of taking or posting selfies. The ever-growing phenomenon of selfies and its impact on society has alerted psychologists across the world. Selfies have been defined as, “a self-portrait photograph of oneself or of oneself and other people, taken with a camera or a camera phone held at arm’s length or pointed at a mirror that is usually shared through social media”. There are different kinds of selfies that may or may not include other people. However, they are boiled down to primarily three kinds: solo selfies, selfies with a romantic partner, and group selfies.
Two studies measuring narcissism and selfie taking behavior have been conducted till now. The results have showed that overall women take more selfies than men. The researchers tested the correlation between narcissism and the number of selfies taken or posted. They also examined different facets of narcissism. Suffice to say, narcissism is not just an exclusive trait, but a confluence of several related qualities such as self-sufficiency (thinking you can do things on your own and don’t need other people), vanity (concern about appearance and a tendency to admire your own physical appearance), leadership (believing that you should have authority over other people and being willing to exploit others if necessary), and demand for admiration (exhibitionism, feeling entitled to special status or privileges and feeling superior to others). Not everyone who scores highly on the overall measure of narcissism necessarily possesses all of these qualities. Thus, the researchers examined these different facets of narcissism to see which ones were most correlated with selfie-taking.
Scientists involved in the analysis of cyber psychology feel that taking a lot of selfies points to the mental health status of a concerned individual. Renowned psychologists have found that it is not an addiction if you click more selfies than normal, but it is a perfect symptom of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). And two-thirds of patients with BDD obsessively take photos of themselves. Some American psychologists think that taking lots of selfies is an indicator that someone has a lack of confidence.
Studies conducted by Gwendolyn Seidman, an associate professor of psychology at Albright College, who studies relationships and cyber psychology, among several others, clearly show that a selfie obsession can be deemed abnormal behavior. Experts have linked selfies with mental illness and suggested that people regularly searching for the perfect photo angle could in some cases be ill. Dr. David Veale, a consultant psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and The Priory Hospital, says, “Two out of three patients who come to see me with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) since the rise of camera phones have a compulsion to repeatedly take and post selfies on social media sites.” Sufferers of BDD can spend hours trying to take pictures that do not show any defects or flaws in their appearance, which they are very aware of, but others may not notice. As well as the excessive self-consciousness, individuals with BDD often feel defined by their flaw. They often experience an image of their perceived defect associated with memories, emotions, and bodily sensations.
Selfies are hugely popular, especially after smartphones rolled out to the hands of common people. You cannot blame a Prime Minister for indulging in the selfie business only because his other colleagues in the government, party, and mother organisation are not so selfie-obsessed. After all, being a Prime Minister is a lonely job. Power is coveted, sought, and tightly held on to. From the animal kingdom to all human societies, power is the currency of success. If selfies strengthen the power dynamics, every world leader should have a right to click more and more selfies ignoring what others say.
(Author is Editor and CEO of News Views India. The views expressed are strictly personal)