Are you a person who tends to look at other people’s selfies? Science says it is a sign that you have a lack of self-confidence.

Do you have a friend or colleague that posts up endless selfies on social media? We all seem to know that one person who delights in capturing their face from one particular angle and in that all too often seen pose, namely eye-brows raised and trout pout perfected.

But what does it mean psychologically for the selfie poster’s self-esteem and, moreover, the people who view them?

You can make numerous assumptions about the type of people who are selfie-posters, namely that they are probably narcissistic, have a high sense of self-worth and are self-obsessed. And studies appear to support this.

People who take selfies have more confidence and higher self-esteem

Studies have shown that those people who tend to put up a lot of selfies do in fact have higher self-esteem. Dr. Judy Ho, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor at Pepperdine University, says selfies promote a self-centered mentality.

“People have become very self-focused as a way to build self-esteem,”

she explains.

“They take selfies then edit them, and make them look as flawless as possible as a way to project how they feel, or want to feel, about themselves.”

And after they have posted them come all the well-meaning comments that compliment the selfie-taker. All this positivity can only boost the selfie-taker’s confidence.

In other studies, participants who were asked why they posted up selfies responded that they believed they looked attractive in the photo and wanted others to see it as well.

So we have established that those taking selfies and posting them up on social media tend to be self-confident with high levels of self-esteem.

But what about those that tend to just view them?

People who view selfies tend to have a lack of self-confidence

Much of the research to date has focused on the reasons people post content onto social media. It is only just becoming apparent that the impact of viewing material is also very important.

Studies have shown that if you are a person that tends to just watch what happens on social media, rather than take part yourself, looking at selfies can actually lower your self-esteem. This practice of not actively taking part has been described as ‘lurking’.

“When people look at others’ selfies and admire them they may feel worse about themselves and think they don’t measure up,”

Dr. Ho says.

It is thought that this is because as you are not participating in posting up selfies, you are not boosting your confidence, but getting perfect images of your friends instead. This can result in a lack of self-confidence.

Ms. Ruoxu Wang, the study’s first author, said:

“People usually post selfies when they’re happy or having fun. This makes it easy for someone else to look at these pictures and think yours, his or her life is not as great as theirs.”

It was also noted that the more people viewed other people’s selfies, especially group selfies where the whole group was seen to be having fun, the more obvious their lack of self-confidence was.

Your self-esteem depends on who is looking at selfies

Remarkably, looking at selfies didn’t always produce feelings of low self-esteem, as it all depended on who was viewing the photos.

If you yourself had a desire to be popular, then merely looking at more selfies gave you added confidence. It was as if there was a knock-on effect of seeing bright and beautiful people that bathed you in their glory.

For those who had a lack of self-confidence and problems with self-esteem to begin with, however, viewing selfies did not give a positive outcome.

Ms. Wang continued:

“We don’t often think about how what we post affects the people around us. I think this study can help people understand the potential consequences of their posting behavior. This can help counselors work with students feeling lonely, unpopular, or unsatisfied with their lives.”

Even a fake smile on a selfie can boost self-esteem

Other studies have looked at how selfie-taking can boost your self-esteem. In one study carried out at the University of California, Irvine, participants spent four weeks taking different kinds of selfies. They reported feeling happier even when they admitted that their smiles were faked.

So whilst for some people, viewing selfies might cause a drop in your self-esteem, taking them, and even faking a bright smile could actually boost it.

Taking smiling selfies were not the only kinds that cheered the participant up either. The researchers found that simply sharing images that made the taker feel happy were enough to boost their self-confidence as well.

It seems that as long as we are participating and taking part and not simply lurking on the sidelines of social media, posting happy images is enough to boost our self-confidence. At the same time, just posting selfies on social media is not going to make your happy and solve your self-esteem issues – you should always look for the root of these problems in the first place.


  1. CBS
  2. ScienceDirect

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