What Do Your Selfies Say About You?

Selfie takers may be revealing a lot more about themselves than they realize – at least, that’s the idea behind new research published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

In the study, researchers asked 191 participants about their selfie-taking behaviors and personal characteristics. The researchers were especially interested in people’s motivations for taking selfies, and they identified three overarching themes in why people take selfies:

  • Self-approval: Of course. Searching for those sweet, sweet likes!
  • Belonging: Looking for a sense of fitting in and being part of a collective
  • Documentation: Creating a visual record of your experiences and memories

In this case, the researchers ascertained people’s motivations by having them say how much they agreed with questions like “I’m taking selfie because it makes me feel less lonely” (belonging) or “I’m taking selfie because I want a souvenir from places that I visited” (documentation). But these motivations are clear enough that we could all probably scroll through our social media feeds and identify selfies that fit with each theme.

In any case, once the surveys were all filled out, the researchers started looking for correlations between people’s motivations for taking selfies and their personal characteristics.

It turned out that each motivation for taking selfies was associated with several characteristic personality traits.

For example, people who were more likely than average to post selfies for the sake of self-approval also tended to be less emotionally stable, less conscientious and less open to experiences, and to have lower self-esteem.

On the other hand, people who posted selfies in order to gain a sense of belonging were more open to experiences on average. And those who posted selfies for the sake of documentation tended to be more extroverted and more agreeable.

One last finding from the study has to do with what people’s motivations for posting selfies don’t say about them – in the end, none of the three motivations explored in the study were related to narcissism. In other words, although previous research has tied social media behavior to narcissistic traits, and there’s an intuitive appeal to the idea that snapping photos of one’s self is linked to narcissism, none of these three motivations for taking selfies predicted levels of narcissism.

Altogether, these findings tell us that there’s nothing simple about selfies. People take selfies for a variety of different reasons, and people’s different motivations for taking selfies have to do with their underlying differences in personality.

Image: Flickr/Hsuanya Tsai