The only problem? It wasn’t true.
Showing that far too many people don’t ever bother to check to see what kind of website they’re on, thousands of people tweeted and posted links to the fake news article. Nobody stopped for a minute to ask, “Hey, is this true? How come no other news website is reporting it?”
Don’t worry — taking too many selfies isn’t a mental disorder.
Selfies are photographs a person takes of oneself, usually with one’s mobile phone. They’ve become all the rage since the advent of smartphones which often have a camera facing the user. This makes taking a self-portrait in-the-moment easy to do.
The fake news article was published to a parody news website ala “The Onion” based in the Philippines called the Adobo Chronicles at the end of March 2014. It began:
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has officially confirmed what many people thought all along: taking ‘selfies’ is a mental disorder.
The APA made this classification during its annual board of directors meeting in Chicago. The disorder is called selfitis, and is defined as the 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.
Thousands of people read the article, didn’t bother to understand they were reading a parody site, and then tweeted (or retweeted) and posted the link to their Facebook page. The social media mania effect then ensued.
Very few of those people ever got the update or news that the article — and its claim about selfies — was fake.
As regular readers of our site know, the American Psychiatric Association only updates its list of official diagnoses — in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) — once every decade or two. It’s a lengthy process and certainly isn’t something decided at a “board of directors meeting.”
Will Selfitis Be a Future Disorder?
All of which begs the question — is there any research into this phenomenon? Could taking too many photographs of oneself actually be a sign of some mental disorder?
The good news is, not any time soon. PsycINFO, the psychology research database, returned zero results for the term “selfie,” meaning not a single research study has been published yet on this phenomenon. ScienceDirect returned 10 results on the term, most of which having to do with space cameras (go figure). PubMed returned a single result, with nothing to do with selfies. Related phrases also turned up nada.1
Since the DSM is only updated upon evidence of a large and confirmatory research base, it’s highly unlikely that we will see a disorder about selfies or called selfitis in the next few decades.
Is there any harm in taking too many photographs of oneself? For most people, probably not. If, however, it’s feeding into one’s pre-existing narcissism or narcissistic tendencies, then yes, it may be only reinforcing those kinds of negative traits.