How selfies destroy our self-esteem

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Social media has changed our aspirations. It’s changed the way we see ourselves, creating a new layer of perfectionist pressure in every aspect of our lives, but equally enabling us to share resources, opinions, help and information more quickly than ever before. We love it, we hate it, we can’t get off it, we have mixed feelings.

Those mixed feelings and extreme highs and lows are something model and activist Naomi Shimada and fashion journalist Sarah Raphael explore in their new book Mixed Feelings: Exploring Modern Life and the Internet, One Discussion at a Time.

With their book they explore what the internet and social media is doing to our minds, bodies and hearts, while celebrating difference at the same time. The book is a bulwark against the onslaught of images of perfectionism and aspiration we are bombarded with on a daily basis; a guide to show that however you’re feeling, you’re not alone. Read an extract below.

I first started seeing a therapist during a six-month period of insomnia and depression a few years ago when all the little things I didn’t like about myself – which get called ‘imperfections’ – were going round my head on a loop as I walked to work or lay awake in bed. I would stare at other people’s selfies, listing all the ways I didn’t measure up.

The obsessive thoughts I was having when scrolling through Instagram started to interrupt me in real life and I became so self-conscious that, when I spoke to people, I’d feel very aware of how my face looked as I was talking. Had they noticed the hair on the side of my face? Did speaking make my lips look thin?

When I shared these thoughts with my therapist, embarrassed about how they sounded out loud, her expression was somewhere between a raised eyebrow and a frown. ‘I understand that’s how you feel about yourself,’ she said, ‘but the person you are describing is not the person sat in front of me.’ I later realised it was the person I saw in the reverse camera on my phone.

Read on…

Comments 13

  1. How do you post that here, knowing the person in it does not want to be on this website ever again? Talk about building self esteem issues, depression, and obsession with how you appear with others? When this is the first place where the person in this photo, and I – started building those terrible habits for attention and compliments from creeps. This blog has a lot of great insight and has gotten really great with inclusiveness and diversity and that’s the only reason I find myself clicking from time to time. But to say brandon and I and many others weren’t basically preyed on in forums, and tinychat, and chat, and tumblr 12-14 years ago would be incorrect. I have a therapist too- and I’ve talked to her about how this site was my first introduction to body dysmorphia and additive habits because I was a child getting attention. I hope it’s not the same way and it isn’t happening. But for god sakes I know you know that’s Brandon. He doesn’t want his photos distributed at the source of a lot of his mental health issues. I’m not solely blaming this blog. But come on he’s said it himself.

    – Marcus

    1. Well said you…

      When I first found this blog those many years ago I thought ‘WOW! … this is quite wonderful’. Such an amazing collection of people and even at my age this blog was a great help to me understanding many things about human interaction plus all of our gayness. This place and the fellow users were instrumental in me saying ‘f*ck it… I’m getting married’.
      But even in the blog’s heyday there was an undertone of the usual nastiness you can find anywhere where perhaps sex, sexuality and casual contacts occur.

      Still checking in here weekly out of habit…. still can see a nasty undertone remains alive and well.

      Hello to you Marcus… I don’t think we ever chatted all those years ago… but hello anyway and what you say is correct.

    2. “But to say brandon and I and many others weren’t basically preyed on in forums, and tinychat, and chat, and tumblr 12-14 years ago would be incorrect.”

      Just curious, How were you “preyed on” if you posted voluntary information and possibly [revealing?] photos?

      As I read it, that’s the same as a girl who wears dresses/tops showing ample cleavage and applies make-up (including siren red lipstick) every morning before going to (at least) high school [and those doing so during middle school] and then whining about losing self-esteem because of what they CHOSE TO DO every morning “to fit in.”

      1. Way to go mister.
        That’s the argument put forward by any tabloid journalist or indignant sex abuser….
        She / He was wearing super tight short shorts – left nothing to the imagination – was obviously asking for my hand to grab her / his bum. How dare you arrest me officer.

        Anyone anywhere should be free to create any kind of surface appearance for themselves without interference from anyone and certainly to be totally free from any kind of adverse action or denigration from anyone else.

        If you despise someone or think someone is less than yourself just because of their appearance or social interaction then have a look at yourself. You’re exactly mirroring those religious f*ckwits that you endlessly bang on about being so horrid and evil.

        Laughing my wee tartan socks off here……

        There’s zero argument anywhere that can justify anyone acting wrongly toward another. Basic stuff.

        1. Upi:
          Way to go mister. Except you didn’t comprehend my post … as usual.

          AGAIN, my post was referring to ONLINE POSTS. “… if you posted voluntary information and possibly [revealing?] photos?”

          While you made excellent points about ‘every day life,’ you didn’t at all address ONLINE POSTS, which are 100% ONLINE.

          And you seem to think that “somehow” I didn’t have/worry about teen angst myself.

          So, keep “laughing ye wee tartan socks off.”

          Back to the ONLINE POSTS: If [he]’s having such personal angst with his real-life [school?] cliques, then how is posting online going to help [relieve?] that? Except that he wants to show [someone out there in meta-world] that [he]’s just as “hot” or can be … as the popular boys that he’s trying to appeal to [in school?]. So, in doing so, he posts the ever-popular “selfie” … be it shirtless, pantsless, undieless, nude, or even with erection.

          How is his [desired/sexy/hot] selfie post the problem of the viewer who goes to that site just because he KNOWS he can see some hot looking teen in all his glory? And, btw, if you attempt to tell me that you don’t go to ANY of those sites just to see something sexually desirable, I’ll contend you’re a LIAR.

          I’m all for parents, teachers, counselors, et al. to help young teens overcome their social angst in anyway they think may seriously help them overcome any inferiority complexes. But, don’t blame the VIEWER for what he goes to those sites for or even for what he posts re: sexual nature [not violence, though — that’s obviously different] when the viewer is gorging himself on sexual images.

          1. Sorry, wrong word used: Should be:
            you didn’t at all address ONLINE POSTS, which are 100% VOLUNTARY.

      2. People with self-esteem issues may be goaded or encouraged by others to post revealing selfies to get more of the validation they seek.

        Instead of encouraging people who lack self-esteem to post pictures, we could instead discourage it and validate them and build them up beyond their physical appearance. Instead, these boys get numerous public and private messages pushing them to go further, which they initially do but later realize is as empty as the feelings that led them there. This is how their head state is taken advantage of by others. Yes, both parties are willing, but the people exploiting an insecurity to get more pictures is still taking advantage of a situation.

        Right now, you see that a lot on reddit twinks subreddit. There is a clear difference between an exhibitionist and an insecure person seeking validation. And monitor the difference in (public) comments, knowing full well private messages are worse.

  2. These similarities can be applied to almost anything in our societies today “to not be left out of the crowd.”

    As a material example, look what not just Apple has done, but societies in general have placed some sort of “intrinsic value” upon their iPhones — and their “need” to either upgrade to or purchase the latest version of iPhone — and of course, all their accessories that make that phone visible to “their group” and public at large.

    That’s just one example. I stated another — girls’ make-up and the increasing nature for even younger girls to show off some make-up and/or their accessories: revealing clothes, ‘designer’ purses, shoes, etc. Things they CHOSE to do or wear, even hammering their parents into purchasing “the latest” of whatever.

    All for “self-esteem” to/for their own personal group to show off.

  3. Is anyones behavior causing their depression and loss of self-esteem or is it a result of their depression and lack of self-esteem? A mentally well-adjusted person doesn’t commit suicide because someone makes fun of them, though of course they may suffer because of it. (I realize this doesn’t specifically mention suicide.)

  4. Ever dawn on anyone here that making social media the nucleus of your life is kind of stupid?

    1. You can say that because you’ve lived your life. Years of experience allowing you to have established your circle of family and friends. Living your life the way you wish. Perhaps you can recall if your early years leading to where you are now were easy or difficult?

      For very many and especially young people who are that bit different such as we all are regarding sexual identity the internet and social media are and have been a good thing. Allowing easy contact with others who are the same. A system that has confirmed to many that it’s perfectly OK to be who you are and making an obvious truth it is the haters who are plainly wrong.

      So, unlike for yourself, social media is a plus for young people.

      The problem is the mechanics of the system have been monopolised for personal and commercial gain and protection of human values has been unbelievably quickly flushed down the toilet. Social media is now the wild west – plainly badlands.

      But still, many young people will blindly take the risk. Screaming for human contact, where else do they go in what’s becoming once more a hate filled world.

    2. “Ever dawn on anyone here that making social media the nucleus of your life is kind of stupid?”

      There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with USING social media for constructive purposes. It’s when these social media actually start taking over their lives — and the primary symptom is the constantly LOOKING DOWN at their phones when they SHOULD BE PAYING ATTENTION to what’s IN FRONT OF THEM (like CARS, for example).

  5. WOW !.!.!. Will never buy nor read this book. It is as obvious a fraud as id the 1968 Marshall McLuhan the medium is the message, which do buy, and. read, and do so at the time of it, and, read 3 times. Before the www and before internet. — That is way AFTER the telephone, ha ha ha
    — With out this writer and some others complaining about each others writings as any see here on this site … shut my mouth. 👊🏽 👊 ♂

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