Women taking selfies – selfie harm or a powerful statement?

by Sep 23, 20213Plus, Professional Image and Fashion, Technology

Women taking selfies seems to be exploding

Are women taking selfies damaging or simply part of making a powerful statement?  


We have all noted the explosion in selfie-taking. But women taking selfies and then posting them on professional channels also seem to be on the increase. Even on  LinkedIn where even the most banal post will now be accompanied by a selfie. From promoted, divorced, married, even depressed, the selfie explosion has no limits.

In this area, women are in the lead. In a study of 5000 images in Australia, women were found to be much more likely to photograph themselves or have themselves photographed. Women took selfies 8.6 times more often than men and were photographed 3.5 times more often than men. Women also documented their possessions 5.4 times more than men.

These are some stats from SelfieCity


women taking selfies



A study carried out by York University Ontario, Canada, and Flinders University Adelaide Australia found that ” women who took and posted selfies to social media reported feeling more anxious, less confident, and less physically attractive afterward compared to those in the control group. Harmful effects of selfies were found even when participants could retake and retouch their selfies. This is the first experimental study showing that taking and posting selfies on social media causes adverse psychological effects for women.”

Taking selfies can also reveal unflattering things about our personalities and can apparently be more dangerous than swimming in shark-infested water, with more deaths reported from taking selfies than even shark attacks.

Selfitis a mental health addiction

According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Mental Health Addiction, if you take three selfies and day and post them to social media, you may be suffering from a condition called “acute selfitis”.

While “selfitis” began as a hoax mental health disorder in 2014, researchers in India and the U.K. decided to take a closer look to test if there was something to selfitis after all. Prolific selfie-takers, according to Psychology Today have been labelled variously as self-absorbed, possibly psychopathic, with a tendency to have less meaningful relationships.


women taking selfies

Fascination with faces

People tend to look down on people taking selfies. Comments about women taking selfies have ranged from: “Trashy,” to “Pathetic,” to “If you want attention, call your mom”,  “I cringe every time I see a girl taking a selfie” Even articles explaining how to take the perfect picture have a faintly apologetic tone, like the harm reduction leaflets which nurses give to heroin addicts.

It’s easy to understand why people hate selfies. Self-promotion and self-obsession are always irritating, and from Lutheran Germany to Stalinist Russia, female vanity has always been considered a dangerous thing.  What’s more interesting is why women are so keen on taking them, in the face of so much disapproval.

On Instagram, pictures with faces are 38% more likely to receive likes, and there’s something very satisfying about being told that someone ‘likes’ your face.  But if all you want is external validation, you could also go for a blue background in your photo (gets 24% more likes on average), an image of something textured (79% more), or simply turn down the saturation (18% more).  Or how about a picture of your cat?

Humans are fascinated by faces. Around 6 months old, most babies go through a “mirror stage”, when they have developed enough to look at their own reflection and become fascinated by anything shiny. In some ways, we never grow out of this. Stores often place mirrors near the entrance, because rushing shoppers slow down automatically when they catch sight of their own reflection. Even a photo of someone else’s face has a similar effect.

Female conflict

Girls are raised with conflicting messages about their own looks: It’s important to be beautiful, but it’s unladylike to stare at yourself in the mirror for hours. No wonder most women hate having their photos taken.  When you take the picture yourself you can keep going photoshopping until it’s perfect. Another reason why women like taking selfies.

The end result might look nothing like you – but so what?

People tend to see themselves as more attractive than they really are. When presented with a series of pictures that had been digitally manipulated to make them more or less attractive, people find it much easier to recognise the better-looking versions of themselves.  (Touchingly, the same effect was found when people looked at photos of their friends, but not when seeing pictures of strangers)

Alicia Eler points out in her book “Selfie Generation” (Skyhorse Publishing), “Generally, it’s men telling women that they are narcissists for selfie-ing.” She further remarks that “young women are simultaneously told that their self-worth depends on their appearance, but they are referred to as ‘vain’ and ‘narcissistic’ if they post selfies, which are all about appearance.”

Worth a read: What would you tell your 30-year-old self?

Control and self-image

By manipulating their image with filters and careful poses, all people are doing is making their photo match their self-image.  In a way, it’s a pretty powerful thing: controlling the images of yourself that are put out into the world, making sure that the way you look aligns with how you want to be seen.  For the first time since the days of professional portrait painters, women have full control over images of themselves.

Think about the Hollywood nude photo leaks of famous actresses; a big proportion of the stolen photos were selfies. Commentators were largely unsympathetic, suggesting that any successful woman should have known better than to take compromising photos of herself.

Worth a read: How to rebuild a damaged online reputation mid-career


These are some of the most photographed women in the world; a fair number of them had already modelled for professional nude photographs.  But they still want more pictures, images they can control, where they can choose their own poses and do their own editing.  You can almost see it as subverting the male gaze. The photos might have been taken for a man, but they weren’t taken by a man.

The question still remains if taking a selfie is a feminist act or an act of selfie-harm?


Are you unsure of the impact your image is making? Take 3Plus International Executive Presence Self-Assessment to find out more.

Alice Bell Contributor
"Alice writes online about business, popular science, and women's lifestyle. After a few years working her way around the world, she has settled in the north of England and taken a day job as a maths teacher. Her life's ambition is to earn enough money to start repaying her student debt."

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