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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 36  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 230-235

Selfie-taking behavior: Personality factors, self-esteem, and interpersonal closeness in college-going students in a Metropolitan City


Department of Psychiatry, TNMC and Nair Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission28-Apr-2019
Date of Decision09-Jan-2020
Date of Acceptance29-Jan-2020
Date of Web Publication28-Sep-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Kalpana D Pawar
Vidyavihar Colony, Plot Number 3, Near Sant Narhari Primary School, Sakti Road, Dhule - 424 001, Maharashtra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijsp.ijsp_31_19

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  Abstract 


Background: Taking selfies is an emerging trend. It is common in college-going adolescents and young adults. It has been proposed to be an addiction or obsession. Researchers have linked it with personality and self-esteem. It has also been thought of as a way of filling gaps in relationship. Few studies have looked at selfie-taking behavior and factors mediating it; hence, this study was planned. Objectives: This study aimed to understand selfie-taking behavior, its prevalence and association with personality factors, self-esteem, and interpersonal closeness in college-going students. Materials and Methods: Students 18–25 years old, studying in graduation, able to understand English, and willing to give informed consent were included in this cross-sectional study. Seven hundred and three students from four colleges participated in the study. Participants were assessed using a self-designed face validated questionnaire to assess selfie-taking behavior, Ten-Item Personality Inventory, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, and Perceived Interpersonal Closeness Scale. Selfie-taking behavior was defined as taking two or more selfies in a day. Descriptive statistics, Chi-square test, and independent t-test were used for the statistical analysis. Results: The prevalence of selfie-taking behavior was 28.7%. Students having selfie-taking behavior tended to be extroverts. There was no significant difference on other domains. Selfie-taking behavior had interfered with social and academic performance of students. Conclusion: Taking selfies may become a cause of concern when a person is unable to control it and the associated negative consequences. This study sensitizes people to be vigilant about it and also invites the attention of researchers to explore it further.

Keywords: Interpersonal closeness, personality, self-esteem, selfie


How to cite this article:
Verma N, Pawar KD, Somaiya M, Kedare J, Mehta F, Tyagi A, Gillurkar K. Selfie-taking behavior: Personality factors, self-esteem, and interpersonal closeness in college-going students in a Metropolitan City. Indian J Soc Psychiatry 2020;36:230-5

How to cite this URL:
Verma N, Pawar KD, Somaiya M, Kedare J, Mehta F, Tyagi A, Gillurkar K. Selfie-taking behavior: Personality factors, self-esteem, and interpersonal closeness in college-going students in a Metropolitan City. Indian J Soc Psychiatry [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 May 20];36:230-5. Available from: https://www.indjsp.org/text.asp?2020/36/3/230/296262




  Introduction Top


Selfie is defined as a photograph that one has taken of oneself, especially one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared through social media.[1] More than a million selfies are taken in a day.[2] Taking selfies is common in college-going adolescents and young adults.[3],[4]

From 2014 to mid-2016, 75 people died while attempting to take a selfie in 52 incidents worldwide.[5] India was the most affected country followed by Russia and the United States.[5],[6] Fall from height, drowning, and rail accidents were the most common modes of selfie-related deaths.[5]

Taking selfies has been proposed to be an addiction or obsession.[2],[7] “Selfitis” was defined as a psychiatric illness where a person has obsessive-compulsive desire to take photos of one's self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem and to fill a gap in intimacy.[8] Balakrishnan and Griffiths explored this concept in 225 Indian students and developed the Selfitis Behavior Scale.[8]

Researchers have linked taking selfies with personality and self-esteem.[9],[10],[11] Taking and posting selfies may be thought of as a way of making up for loneliness, boredom, or relationship issues similar to compulsive shopping and smartphone addiction.[12],[13],[14]

Few studies have looked at selfie-taking behavior and factors mediating it; hence, this study was designed to understand selfie-taking behavior, its prevalence, and its association with personality factors, self-esteem, and interpersonal closeness in college-going students.


  Materials and Methods Top


Methodology

It was a cross-sectional study carried out in a metropolitan city. Participants were recruited from four colleges from different parts of the city. Approval was obtained from the Institutional Ethics Committee, Dean of TNMC and Nair Hospital, Mumbai, and Principals of the four colleges before commencing the study. Students between the age of 18 and 25 years, studying in graduation, able to understand English, and willing to give informed consent were included in this study. All students available in the four colleges who fulfilled the required inclusion criteria were included in the study. Written informed consent was obtained from all participants before assessment. These participants were assessed on the following four measures.

Measures used

Questionnaire assessing selfie-taking behavior

It was a self-designed questionnaire comprising 15 questions. Questions were framed by authors and validated by experts. It was administered to 20 people to test the clarity of the questions asked. Questions were reframed until clear; overall agreement between raters was calculated by administering the questionnaire to the same 5 college-going students on 3 different days by three different psychiatrists. The overall agreement of the questionnaire was found to be 0.91.

Ten-Item Personality Inventory

This scale is used to measure the personality traits related to the following big-five personality factors: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience. It is a self-report 10-item Likert scale questionnaire with Cronbach's alpha coefficient of 0.66 and test-retest reliability of 0.72.[15]

Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale

It is a self-report 10-item Likert scale with high ratings in reliability areas; internal consistency is 0.77; and minimum coefficient of reproducibility is 0.90.[16] Alpha coefficients ranged from 0.72 to 0.87 in different studies. Test-retest reliability for the 2-week interval was found to be at 0.85 and the 7-month interval was calculated at 0.63 in different studies.

Perceived Interpersonal Closeness Scale

It is a self-report 6-item Likert scale which measures an individual's perception of interpersonal closeness in various relationships: both actual status and ideal. Test-retest reliability is 0.77, and it has an acceptable face, concurrent, and discriminant validity.[17]

Procedure

The assessment consisted of 41 questions on the above-mentioned four parameters. These questions were answered by students in a group of 45–50 under the guidance of two supervisors. Students were divided into two groups: students with selfie-taking behavior and students without selfie-taking behavior based on their responses on the questionnaire assessing selfie-taking behavior.

As there is no standard definition of selfie-taking behavior, recent studies were looked up to define the behavior. It was found that most study participants took up to two selfies in a day.[18],[19] Shah proposed that anything more than 3–5 selfies in a day may be considered a disease (addiction) even if not posted on social networking sites.[20] If posting on social networking sites was considered, he reduced the number to <3/day.[20] Considering these, selfie-taking behavior was defined as taking two or more selfies in a day for the purpose of this study.

Data analysis and statistical methods

'IBM SPSS 20.0 statistical software (developed by AIIMS, New Delhi, India) was used for statistical analysis. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the responses on the questionnaire assessing selfie-taking behavior. The Chi-square test was used to compare the study groups on various questions of the questionnaire assessing selfie-taking behavior. Independent t-test was used to compare the study groups on personality factors, self-esteem, and interpersonal closeness. Statistical significance was considered as P < 0.05.


  Results Top


Of 720 questionnaires administered, 703 were chosen for the analysis as remaining 17 questionnaires were incompletely filled.

Sociodemographic profile

The mean age of the students was 19 years with standard deviation (SD) of 0.9. There were 150 males (21.3%) and 553 females (78.7%). Of them, 32 males (21.3%) and 170 females (30.7%) had selfie-taking behavior. This gender difference was statistically significant (χ2 = 5.100, P = 0.024).

Selfie-taking behavior

  1. The prevalence of selfie-taking behavior was 28.7%. Two hundred and two of 703 students had selfie-taking behavior, whereas 501 students did not have the behavior. Sixty-nine students (9.8%) reported taking four or more selfies in a day. Two hundred and ninety-five students (42%) reported posting selfies on social media.


  2. Various reasons behind taking and/or posting selfies were to preserve memories (579 students; 82.4%), feeling happy on getting likes (130 students; 18.6%), boosting of self-confidence on getting positive comments (104 students; 14.8%), and a means to increase popularity (27 students; 3.8%). Students who had selfie-taking behavior reported feeling happy on getting likes more frequently than those who did not have selfie-taking behavior. This difference was statistically significant (χ2 = 6.997, P = 0.008). Furthermore, they reported increase in self-confidence more frequently than students who did not have selfie-taking behavior (χ2 = 4.58, P = 0.032). Five hundred and sixty-six (80.5%) students took selfies at happening places, 231 (32.9%) at risky places, and 103 (14.7%) during routine activities.

  3. The comparison of responses on the questionnaire assessing selfie-taking behavior between the two groups


Significant differences were found in the responses which are summarized in [Table 1].
Table 1: Comparison of responses on the questionnaire assessing selfie-taking behavior between the two groups

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Personality factors and selfie-taking behavior

Students having selfie-taking behavior tended to be extroverts. No significant difference was observed on other personality factors between the two groups. The result is summarized in [Table 2].
Table 2: Comparison of personality factors between the two groups

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Self-esteem and selfie-taking behavior

Self-esteem in students who did not have selfie-taking behavior (mean 30.70, SD 4.76) was more than students who had selfie-taking behavior (mean 30.04, SD 4.81), although the difference was not statistically significant (t = 1.667; P = 0.096).

Interpersonal closeness and selfie-taking behavior

There was no significant difference in the scores between students who had selfie-taking behavior and those who did not have the behavior. Result is summarized in [Table 3].
Table 3: Comparison of scores on Perceived Interpersonal Closeness Scale between the two groups

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  Discussion Top


The prevalence of selfie-taking behavior was 28.7%. Two hundred and two out of 703 students had selfie-taking behavior. Among them, there were 170 females and 32 males. This gender difference was statistically significant. Similar findings were reported by other studies where females outnumbered males in taking selfies.[21]

Nearly 9.8% of students reported taking four or more selfies in a day. Similar findings were observed in a recent Indian study where 38 out of 230 school-going adolescents (16.5%) reported clicking four or more selfies in a day.[18] The slight difference in percentages may be explained by the effect of age on taking selfies where it has been found that adolescents are more likely to take selfies than young adults.[21]

Nearly 82.4% students reported that they took selfies to preserve memories. In a recent study conducted in undergraduate medical students in Telangana (India), the authors found that 320 out of 402 students (80%) took selfies to preserve memories which was similar to our findings.[19] We also found that students took selfies to boost their self-confidence (14.8%), increase popularity (3.8%) and that they felt happy on getting likes (18.6%). It has been proposed that taking selfies increases self-confidence as the person has control over the selfie he/she posts. People might take many selfies but post the ones they like. This has been termed as active online identity which is under their control.[12] Various motives behind taking selfies are self-approval, belonging, and documentation.[22] “Self-approval” is defined as the need to validate one's confidence or significance by taking selfies, “belonging” as a tendency to take and upload selfies and obeying the social norms, to feel a part of one's environment and “documentation” as the intention to preserve one's memory and experience by taking a selfie. According to these findings, “documentation” and “self-approval” could possibly be a reason behind taking selfies among the participants in this study.

Students reported that they took selfies at happening places (80.5%). We also found that 32.9% students took selfies at risky places. This was far more than that reported in the Telangana study where the authors found that 7% students took a risk for selfies.[19] This difference could be due to the different meanings of the word “risky” when explained to the participants in both studies. An incident where it was evident that the person took a risk to click the selfie was explained as “risky” to participants. The examples of risky places given were at the edge of a moving train, terrace or cliff, at heights or at beach. This difference may also be due to certain personality traits such as impulsivity in study participants which were not assessed in our study.

On comparing students who had selfie-taking behavior with those who did not have selfie-taking behavior, a significant difference was observed in the responses [Table 1]. Students who had selfie-taking behavior regularly practiced the “perfect pose” before taking selfies. They also reported that despite persistent efforts to stop thoughts of taking a selfie, it came to their mind repeatedly and that they found themselves taking selfies when they were meant to be doing something important. They had difficulty without taking at least one selfie and were unable to cut down the frequency of taking selfies. Moreover, the students reported that taking selfies had interfered with their social life and academic performance. These responses suggest some amount of distress in students who had selfie-taking behavior. Furthermore, selfie-taking behavior was found to have interfered with social and academic performance of students. Sociooccupational dysfunction is an important criteria for diagnosing psychopathology in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5th edition.[23] Taking selfies may be considered harmless to start with however may become a cause of concern later.

Studies have identified various factors behind the popularity of selfies among its users. Few of them are personality factors, self-esteem, a way to preserve memories, a means for presenting an “ideal self” to others and as a means to communicate their feelings and whereabouts to others.[9] This study has tried to explore some of these factors among participants.

It was found that students having selfie-taking behavior tended to be extroverts [Table 2]. Similar findings were reported in other studies where taking selfies was an indicator of extraversion.[24],[25]

We also found that 18.6% of students reported feeling happy on getting likes, and 3.8% students reported that they posted selfies to gain popularity. There may be an element of narcissism in the above responses as feeling happy on getting likes from others and posting selfies to gain popularity reflects getting attention or admiration from others which is one of the important characteristics of narcissistic personality.[26] However, it may only be a narcissistic trait and not a disorder. Similar findings were observed in a study conducted in Madhya Pradesh (India) where 24 out of 100 students (24%) reported satisfaction after posting selfies, and the authors have linked it to narcissism.[27] Narcissistic personality traits have been most commonly linked with taking selfies.[10],[11] People with narcissistic traits are more likely to update selfies, which is motivated by their need for attention and validation from online users.[27]

Students who had selfie-taking behavior reported increase in self-confidence on taking/posting selfies more frequently than students who did not have selfie-taking behavior. This difference was statistically significant. Contrary to this, we did not find any significant difference in self-esteem scores between students who had selfie-taking behavior and those who did not have selfie-taking behavior. It may be that students who had selfie-taking behavior had lower self-esteem initially but posting selfies and getting likes or positive comments from others have increased their self-confidence, and their self-esteem scores now match with those who do not have selfie-taking behavior. Our findings were similar to the study done by Barry et al. where the authors studied 128 undergraduate students and found that individuals with fragile self-esteem posted more selfies to highlight their physical appearance. However, they did not find any significant relationship between self-esteem and posting selfies.[28] Literature has equivocal data related to self-esteem and selfies. Some studies propose that taking and posting selfies is reflective of low self-esteem, whereas others report that people with higher self-esteem take and post more selfies.[29] It has also been reported that selfies can have both positive and negative impacts. Posting selfies has been reported to increase self-confidence, whereas selfies have also been associated with wastage of time while editing pictures before posting them on social media.[30]

No significant difference was found on the scores on Perceived Interpersonal Closeness Scale (PICS) in the two groups [Table 3]. “Selfitis” definition links it to low levels of intimacy.[8] Furthermore, interpersonal relationship disturbances have been linked to behavioral addictions such as compulsive shopping and smartphone addictions.[14] These behaviors are negatively reinforced as involvement in the behavior decreases unpleasant variables such as stress due to relationship issues, loneliness, or boredom. No significant difference on PICS in the two groups reflects no similar negative reinforcement for selfie-taking behavior.


  Conclusion Top


The prevalence of selfie-taking behavior is 28.7%. Females outnumber males in taking selfies. The most common reason behind taking selfies is to preserve memories. It is seen in extroverts and may be related to low self-esteem. It is not related to interpersonal relationship issues. Selfie-taking behavior may interfere with social and academic performance of students. When a person exceeds the usual frequency of taking selfies, he may progress from a harmless behavior to one which is a cause of concern where the person is unable to control his selfie taking and the negative consequences associated with it.

Limitations

As there are no standardized criteria for selfie-taking behavior, a self-designed face-validated questionnaire was used in the study which may have not looked into all aspects of the behavior. No distinction was made between selfie-taking and selfie-posting, though most of the findings are in relation to taking selfies. Studies have proposed that selfie-taking and selfie-posting are different and that selfie posting may just be tip of the iceberg of the complete selfie phenomenon which involves selfie-taking, editing/selecting, and selfie-posting.[9] The sample was not balanced with respect to gender as more females had given informed consent in comparison to males. Narcissistic personality has been most commonly linked to selfies, but a standardized personality inventory to assess specifically narcissistic personality traits was not used in the study to accept or rule out narcissistic personality in participants.[10] We had focused on the Big-Five personality factors rather than individual personality disorder in this study. The age group was limited to 18–25 years, and hence, the findings could not be generalized to general population. Risk-taking behavior, physical and psychiatric comorbidity, and associated impairments were not explored as they were beyond the scope of this study.

Implications

Despite certain limitations, our study is a preliminary attempt to explore the concept of selfie-taking behavior and the factors associated with it. This study proposes that selfie-taking behavior is a cause of concern and hence sensitizes students, parents, and teachers about it and the negative consequences associated with it. It also sensitizes clinicians to be vigilant about selfie-taking behavior in a clinical scenario. This study invites the attention of researchers to explore this concept further and to identify the various other factors and clinical indicators leading to selfie-taking behavior.

Future directions

The complete selfie phenomemon, i.e., selfie taking, editing/selecting, and posting need to be studied separately to understand their unique significance among people using selfies. Studies looking into different aspects of selfie phenomenon and physical and psychiatric comorbidities and associated impairments will be beneficial in understanding the selfie phenomenon better. Studies with a gender balanced sample will help in looking at the association of gender with the different variables, i.e., personality factors, self-esteem, and interpersonal closeness. Furthermore, refining the questionnaire assessing selfie-taking behavior with further research and its validation will be beneficial.

Acknowledgment

The authors would like to thank (i) Professor (Dr.) R. M. Kamath, Professor and Head, Department of Psychiatry, TNMC and Nair Hospital, Mumbai, (ii) Dr. Alka Subramanyam, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, TNMC and Nair Hospital, Mumbai, for their valuable support and guidance throughout the research work.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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