Could Your Selfies Be Hurting Your Relationship?

A girl and her boyfriend taking a selfie together.

Like it or lump it, selfies are a part of our culture now. And let’s be honest: no matter what your stance is on the phenomenon we’ve all taken them. Maybe you were on vacation and snapped a pic of yourself in front of the Eiffel Tower to send to your friends and family. Or maybe you were just really feeling your outfit one day and wanted to show it off. No big deal, right?

But what happens when your selfies become an obsession? And how does your “selfitis” (yes, that’s a real thing) affect your dating potential and your relationships?

What it means to be an excessive selfie-taker
First thing’s first: we need to understand the psychology behind the excessive selfie taker. We’ve all got that one friend who constantly posts selfies and has their Instagram stance down to a science: the up-close angle, the duck lips, the cute-but-trying-to-be sexy pose. It’s titillating until you scroll through their feed and see that it’s the exact same pose over and over again.

But why does this person take so many selfies? There are a couple of theories floating around behind the addiction. One study from SUNY Buffalo found that those who base their self-worth on others’ opinions are more likely to post selfies. Another study by Florida State University discovered that people who were more satisfied with their physical appearance were more likely to flaunt it in a selfie. Both findings suggest that selfies trigger vanity or attention seeking social dependence, which means the selfie takers are either very full of themselves or suffer from low self-esteem.

And then we have “selfitis”—a term that was initially a joke until it was proven to be a full-blown mental condition confirmed by psychologists. The findings, published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction confirmed that there are three levels of selfitis: borderline, indicating people who take selfies at least three times a day, but don’t post them on social media; ‘acute’ where the pictures are actually posted; and then the ‘chronic’ stage in which those affected feel an uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self constantly, posting them more than six times a day.

Researchers found that most selfitis sufferers were attention seekers, often lacking in self-confidence, who were hoping to boost their social standing. In short: the more “likes” you get, the more popular and validated you feel.

What does this mean for selfie-takers in a relationship?
Researchers from the Florida University study found that those who posted excessive selfies experienced more conflict with their romantic partner, including jealous arguments, as well as an overall dissatisfaction within the relationship. Excessive selfie-takers typically seek outside validation and support rather than within their relationship. As a result, the partner of a selfie taker might feel threatened or insecure about why their boyfriend or girlfriend feels the need to post photos of themselves for others to see and admire. They might also think their selfie-obsessed lover has a narcissistic streak, and, ultimately, finds them less attractive. Which is ironic but not considering a study from the University of Toronto found that those who take a lot of selfies actually overestimate how attractive they are.

What do you do if you’re dating an excessive selfie-taker?
Whether you’re interested in or currently dating an excessive selfie taker, you have to consider how much the habit bothers you and how much you’re invested in the relationship. Perhaps you find it an annoying tic but can look past it. Depending on how much you care for this person, you might want to talk about their selfie addiction. Or maybe you hit the delete button on your relationship because you don’t have the energy or capacity to indulge a constant attention-seeker.

What do you do if you are the excessive selfie-taker?
It may be time to examine why you feel compelled to take so many selfies. Social media, at its best, is about connection and adding value to our lives, not validation. Consider what posting so many photos of yourself really adds to your life. Is the validation and approval what you really want? How else might you find self-compassion and self-acceptance?

Like I said, we all take selfies. But we also should all be conscious of when, why, and how much we do it. Selfies can be fun and light-hearted, but nobody wants to be that person who takes it too far.

Brianne Hogan

Freelance Writer

Brianne is a Canadian freelance writer who’s been writing about dating and relationships longer than any of her relationships. She applies a “do what I say, not do what I do” approach to her articles, and believes you can find Your Person mostly when you aren’t looking. So enjoy your life, and eat lots of cheese (at least that’s her motto). Her byline’s been featured on Thrillist, The Huffington Post, HelloGiggles, Elle Canada, Flare, Awesomeness TV, among others.

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