The Selfish Selfie

Are we growing to be more selfish? Does this correlate with our obviously growing narcissism. Does that mean we are happier for it?

A growing trend and now necessity in the majority of people accessing their virtual lives through visual platforms is the act of taking a selfie. And though the act of doing so may be judged I can guarantee that every single one of you reading this has taken one. Whether it be a guilty pleasure, a group selfie or the shameless “in public, looking flawless, its ok its for my snap chat streak”

Its become a requirement of social media. And it definitely has, because I can tell you, If some tries to add me on social media and their display picture is a car or aspirational quote… then no thanks maybe never.

For people not caught up in this world of self-love and mastery of filters the obvious question comes to mind; how can this benefit anything?

Selfies appear selfish especially for those who don’t partake of the highly broadcasted self-interest and admiration. But are generations who have immersed themselves in this virtual culture more selfish than the generations before?

When it comes down to it the manner in which social media functions makes it appear as through its users are selfish,; constantly looking for likes and making themselves appear “more beautiful” than their average selves. However this is how humans behave. We crave attention and admiration as they bring with them endorphins and dopamine. Molly Soat of Marketing News discusses this social media drug in “Social Media Triggers a Dopamine High”

In the article she mentions Mauricio Delgado, associate professor of psychology at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., who states that “The same brain areas [that are activated for food and water] are activated for social stimuli,”

He discusses the “like” and “share” function of social media stating that the initial dopamine kick is received from the act ie working out or eating dinner., a secondary kick is received from the sharing and liking aspect  “It’s a daisy chain of dopamine.”

Now that humans have the means to look for this high constantly and with ease, does that make us more selfish?We are simply aware of what makes us chemically happy and how to obtain it.

A study by Hui Bing Tan and Joseph P. Forgas on the selfishness of humans and how that relates to our happiness draws on some interesting findings. The study drew from three experiments where the mood and how this affected their fairness was monitored. Interestingly when people exhibited positive moods, selfishness was increased and people with negative moods were more inclined to be fairer.

The results were as follows;

Microsoft Word - TanForgasJESPJan2010RevisionWithFigures

Can this then mean that in fact the generations subjected to social media constraints and norms are indeed prone to higher levels of selfishness, considering that they are chemically happier with each burst of “like/share” fueled dopamine

One aspect that needs to be addressed is the truth as to whether our internet soaked generations are in fact happier.

Viewing this from social media stance, Id say definitely, however we all know that in between the amazing instagram pictures of loads of people gallivanting through pristine scenes with flawless skin and even more flawless friends could well be, an all but exciting life.

The pictures, selfies, and posts that make the cut to social media all hold qualities that we admire, they are the best of the best, not the average and boring. Our social media profiles have become our brands, it is what we use to show other people the best of ourselves, and we sure as hell aren’t going to show our “depressed, cant get out of bed and only ate slices of plastic cheese for a week” selves. If its not desirable, it wont be published.

I truly don’t believe that even though public spaces online depict immaculate people with bountiful lives, that they are happier for it.

Geraldine Bedell, editor of Gransnet, discussed the growing rates of mental health issues in the last 25 years. Stating that “Rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers have increased by 70 per cent in the past 25 years. The number of children and young people turning up in A&E with a psychiatric condition has more than doubled since 2009”

Every aspect of social media is constructed, and therefore should not be taken as entirely true. If we are not truly happy does this then indicate that we are not as selfish as we may appear when immersing ourselves in this simulated lifestyle?


Bedell, G. 2016 “Teenage Mental-Health Crisis: Rates Of Depression Have Soared In Past 25 Years” Independent, 27 February 2016

Fareri, D.S., Martin, L.N., Delgado, M.R. (2008) Reward-related processing in the human brain: Developmental considerations. Development & Psychopathology, 20(4): 1191-1211.

Hui Bing Tan and Joseph P. Forgas When happiness makes us selfish, but sadness makes us fair: Affective influences on interpersonal strategies in the dictator game

Soat, M. 2015 “Social Media Triggers a Dopamine High”Marketing News, Nov 2015



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