Are Selfies Good For Self Esteem? New Research Says They Are, But There's A Huge Catch

Once upon a time, in what is now a forgotten corner of the internet, there existed a digital art form known as the Myspace "profile pic." Over time, the one-armed snapshot skillfully evolved into a Facebook photo, and then came Instagram. Reimagining this kind of photography yet again, social media users made it their mission to master the craft you know and love (and maybe loathe?) today, otherwise known as as the “selfie.” Selfies have become a universal means of expression, but are selfies good for self-esteem, even if you’re just taking them periodically to update your profile? According to new research, the way in which a selfie affects your self-worth and body image is a lot more complicated than it seems, because while taking photos of yourself when you’re feeling your best can be awesome for your self-image, the truth stands: Too much of anything is never a good thing.

For the record, my friends and I were snapping selfies before "selfie" was a legit term in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I can remember my older sisters and mom circa 2005 saying, mockingly, “Julie loves taking pictures of herself.” And they weren’t wrong: I did love taking pictures of myself, and that’s because before my seventh-grade BFF had me pose next to her on a swing set so she could stick her camera high in the air, take our photo, and analyze how we looked seconds later, I really didn’t pay all that much attention to my physical appearance. Fast-forward almost 15 years later, and I’m extremely aware of my physical appearance — and maybe even a little paranoid about what others think of it, too. But are selfies to blame for this? Maybe, maybe not.

According to a new survey, spending too much time on social media is still proving to be bad for self-esteem; taking selfies, on the other hand, might have the opposite effect.

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You’ve heard the phrase “everything in moderation,” right? Well it turns out, this little diddy can be applied to most, if not all things things in life, especially social media. By now, I’m sure you’re all aware of the countless studies and statistics that say social media isn't great for your mental health, but have you ever thought about how selfies factor into all of this?

To find out if selfies are good for self-esteem, fitness product review website FitRated conducted a survey that measured how someone’s social media use impacts their self-image, and more specifically, how taking selfies affects self-image. The questionnaire was completed by a total of 1,000 Americans who identified themselves using one of three categories: a non-user (meaning they spend zero hours on social media and take zero selfies per month), regular user (they spend one to two hours on social media and take one to two selfies per month), or an avid user (they spend three hours on social media and take three or more selfies per month).

The results of the survey showed that the more time you spend on social media, the more you tend to focus on your physical appearance and compare yourself to others — so basically, nothing you haven't heard before. But stick around, because what’s really going to throw you for a loop is this: Despite the fact that spending a good chunk of your free time on social media could translate to lower self-esteem, regular and avid social media users in the survey said taking more selfies resulted in higher self-esteem, as well as higher satisfaction with their overall appearance.

So it turns out selfies can have a positive impact on your self-esteem — that is, if you approach taking and posting them with the right attitude.

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Selfies might get a bad rap sometimes, but if you're going by FitRated's findings alone, snapping a selfie here or there could actually improve your self-esteem. "Selfies can be an empowering display of self-love and a big self-esteem booster," a spokesperson from FitRated tells Elite Daily, and that's partially because "social community can act as an arena for support and encouragement." However, if you're the type of person who puts a high value on validation from your peers instead of focusing on how you and you alone feel about a photo, that's when selfies can negatively start to affect your self-esteem.

"You have to ask yourself why you are taking the selfie — for the sake of making yourself feel better, to 'compete' with your friends or followers, or just to have fun and express your feelings of happiness at that particular time," Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, tells Elite Daily. In other words, the next time you reach for your phone or start uploading a selfie to social media, ask yourself why you're doing it. Are you doing this for yourself, or because you feel insecure and are looking for the approval of your peers to make you feel a little better? If it's the latter, you might be better off putting the phone down and identifying how you're feeling, if it's an insecurity, and how you can go about feeling better in more rewarding, long-lasting ways.

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Having said that, though, selfies aren't the devil, and you definitely shouldn't stop taking them if you genuinely feel amazing in the moment and want to share it with your loved ones via social media. After all, Cara Harbor, director of marketing for the beauty app Perfect365, tells Elite Daily, selfies can be "a source of empowerment for the selfie-taker" in that, instead of being the passive subject in a photo, your display of beauty and self-esteem is front and center.

So don't just take a selfie; own your selfie, and never hesitate to snap a pic when you feel like a rockstar and want to share it with the world. Who knows — it might just give you the self-esteem boost you never realized you needed.