One of the most difficult aspects of mental health is determining causation. A body of evidence is apparently growing that taking selfies can lead to narcissism, addiction, and suicide. But it seems to me that narcissism and a tendency toward addiction and suicide would increase the likelihood of excessive selfies.
In other words, the correlation of selfies and narcissism might be a vicious feedback loop or it could be a fallacy of causation. Who knows. But the growing body of information on the selfie phenomenon is interesting:
Is it possible that selfies, the trend of taking pictures of oneself, could cause narcissism, addiction, mental illness and even suicide? That’s what seems to be suggested by expert opinion surrounding the phenomenon, and a man diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder says he grew suicidal due to his addiction to taking selfies. Danny Bowman says he became so obsessed with trying to take the “right” selfie that he ended up shooting about 200 pictures a day while trying desperately to capture the perfect image of himself.
When Bowman failed to take what he perceived to be the perfect selfie, he attempted suicide by taking an overdose of drugs. Prior to his suicide attempt, he says, he would spend about ten hours every day taking selfies. Dr. David Veal, a physician involved in caring for Bowman, says selfies may cause mental illness, including body dysmorphic disorder, which has “an extremely high suicide rate.”
Again, it seems Danny Bowman had problems before he started taking two hundred selfies a day. But the self-reflective obsession of taking selfies certainly didn’t help.
This is the reality of our culture—a culture constantly looking at itself and trying to represent itself in the perfect image. Selfies are just the individualized instantiation of that widespread cultural reality.
In the end, bad mental health and an excessive amount of self-reflection go hand in hand. And these things feed each other. One of the most important things for us to learn is how to see others clearly and serve others. Facebook was supposed to be a place where we could connect to others. But it has become a place where we all look at ourselves. Facebook and selfies aren’t the problem though. They’re just a symptom of our destructive self-obsession.