All my complaining and grumbling was misguided, as usual. I think of the mornings and evenings I raced through Grand Central, to and from the train, blocked by hordes of tourists taking selfies, some of them brandishing selfie sticks so lethal they could poke out your eye, while I was cursing and rushing around them, through them and in front of them.
“Narcissists!” I sneered. “Let an honest man pass! Get a job!”
If you’ve ever been in Grand Central at rush hour and seen the throngs of people taking pictures of themselves, you know what I mean. Last week I got stuck behind a young woman who was walking in front of me while making a video of herself and talking to her smartphone camera. She was surrounded by desperate commuters who wanted to stampede over her remorselessly like raging buffalo on the Great Plains or consumers at the Apple Store when a new iPhone comes out.
Now, however, I have a different perspective. Selfies are good for the soul. Science says so. A selfie a day keeps the psychiatrist away.
Researchers at the University of California at Irvine claim your self-image improves if you take selfies. The more the better. Students who took part in the four-week study felt more confident and happy and had a better sense of well-being after taking self-portraits every day and sharing them.
Yu Chen, a scholar at the school’s Department of Informatics (what’s that?) said: “Our research showed that practicing exercises that can promote happiness via smartphone picture-taking and sharing can lead to increase positive feelings for those who engage in it.” I call that “smartphone Nirvana.”
Another study found that young women spend five hours or more a week taking pictures of themselves. The survey said women 16 to 25 devote about 16 minutes to each picture-taking session three times a day. I have to believe that time could be better spent studying, doing yardwork, doing housework or losing money at the casino.
Members of the younger generation often suffer from what is known as “selfie-esteem,” which means their level of confidence in their bodies is determined by the number of “likes” they get on photos they post on social media.
Some experts claim that people addicted to taking selfies may be suffering from a condition known as “Body Dysmorphic Disorder” and need to constantly check their appearance.
I recently read a headline that proclaimed, “Woman buys first bikini at 31, shares selfies to prove everybody is bikini-ready.” You’re probably asking yourself why I was reading that story during this election season when there are more important things for a grown man to read like: “Serena Williams slays in a tiny bikini on a tropical vacation.”
Even though I complain about people who shoot photos of themselves to post on Facebook, Instagram or Snap Chat, I have a confession to make. My daughters are constantly putting the cell-phone camera in their babies’ faces and urging them to smile, coo, gurgle, burp and do all the other things that babies are supposed to do in Gerber commercials. Then, they send those photos out into cyberspace to share with the unwashed masses.
Are they nurturing little narcissists? How good can it be to grow up with a camera pointed at you while being encouraged to make fake smiles that celebrites are known for? Are we raising kids to be little Kardashians?
Of course, the Queen of Selfies is Kim Kardashian, who sends photos of herself in various stages of undress to millions of people every day – including Paris thieves who robbed her after seeing a $4.5 million ring she posted on Instagram.
And pop star Selena Gomez boasts 100 million followers on Instagram, the photo-sharing site, followed by Taylor Swift with 91.4 million and Beyonce with 85.3 million. With numbers like that, they could run for president and do better than Hillary or Donald.
I’ve never take a selfie, but I plan to start because I don’t want to be left behind. However, it’s difficult because I was born before the self-esteem movement changed parenting, which means to say I was raised back in the days when you got criticism from your parents instead of phony praise, so I have a poor self-image.
If the researchers are right, taking selfies can change my self-perception. Self-confidence, self-love, self-obsession, here I come. Hand me my selfie stick. The only problem is I have trouble smiling. But I can still growl. Grrrrrr.
Contact Joe Pisani at [email protected]