When selfies become an illness

Selfies

We all do it and all like them as long as we look good on it. Some however are addicted to them, in RL as well as in Second Life. I’ve always had a love hate relation with them in both lifes, but definitely more hate than love. Mostly with my own selfies, especially in RL, but also with selfies of others when someone is flooding them on whatever medium. With flooding I mean, selfies only and high quantity in a short time range.

I have my personal reasons to have selfie issues which for sure colours my view and may look over the top for others. That’s fine, I just write this because it keeps me busy lately for several reasons and not to proof my right or other people’s wrong.

 

BDD

Since the age of 14 years I battle in RL with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). But I only discovered BDD to exist 30 years later when my life already had become extremely destructive in terms of psychological exhaustion due to severe compulsions and anxieties that made a zombie of me with no social life anymore and losing my job. Also treatment came too late to get a full recovery.

After 8 years of therapy things went better, but I never have been free of BDD stress and all its rituals and troubles.  It comes and goes in waves, from calm to very intense and uncontrollable.

I will skip how and why it developed and also do not want to present myself as a poor victim or stupid idiot with a weak character who cannot handle her insecurities, so I only will say it can happen to anyone when a certain mix of predisposition and environmental elements come together at a bad moment and especially when young and vulnerable. To keep it simple: People with a balanced self-image wear rose-coloured glasses that help them to look at themselves in a positive slightly upgraded way. People with BDD have no rose-coloured glasses and look at themselves in the unfiltered way which causes them to believe they look horrible. This loss of the ‘pink glasses look’ has a high impact when it becomes a tool to measure your own value. Low value will lead to low self esteem /self confidence.

 

More on BDD in the link and documentary/conference video below:

The ‘ugly truth’ about Body Dysmorphic Disorder

 

The perfect look

Since photography became a major way of showcasing someone, our way of looking at ourselves has changed. To see our reflection in a mirror is more dynamic than a picture. A mirror reflection can trigger intensely as well but you can escape it a bit by changing your hair, clothes, a smile on your face etc. Photographs freeze your face and suddenly certain things look different. It is a not natural image of oneself, because it suggests we have only that  frozen non dynamic look and this is how you look, always and everywhere. The reason we often do not like our own pictures has to do with that and with seeing all imperfections without the option to hide them a bit via another angle or light.

We die for a perfect look of ourselves on a photograph so we can feel ok with that and show it to others. The pink glasses most people wear regarding their self image  disappears when looking at a not so successful selfie. So also people with a healthy self image will experience the less rose-coloured version of themselves at such a moment. Most however are capable to smile at it, dismiss it , forget  it and move on.

But when vulnerable for not dismissing it things can go terribly wrong. A new phenomena as a kind of subcategory or pre stage of BDD can be seen nowadays amongst users of media like Instagram, Snapchat etc. The pressure to collect high rated likes and many followers, to be popular and perfect, drives them into an excessive use of filters and endless perfectioned selfies. They cannot longer accept reality as it is and start to avoid social life or seek the same perfection for their unfiltered face via cosmetic enhancements and cosmetic surgery. Often their desires are impossible  to create however, because photo filters are unrealistic and cannot be exported into a cosmetic change. It takes a mental change instead of a cosmetic change to feel ok again and that can be very hard.

You can read more of this in the article below.

Selfie Dysmorphia: Distorting Beauty

 

Second Life / Flickr

Back to Second Life. Selfies in Second Life are very common and nothing wrong with that. Most of us will post them on Flickr and I think it can be compared with RL. People with a healthy, balanced self image will be guarded against too much perfectionism as ideal and just go for the aesthetics of it all which can be created super easy with an avatar. You can ask yourself if selfies ONLY is healthy but that’s another subject. I tend to say that’s a bit attention addict behaviour, but it depends on more than only a picture. Also how someone promotes it, how many groups on a Flickr stream are used to get more views/likes and how someone feels superior and popular mainly due to pics like that,  matter.

 

When looking at selfies as a deconstruction of reality, a fake image and fake self promotion things become more hard. I tend to look at it that way regulary due to my love hate with selfies as explained. When absolutely needing perfect selfies to feel good, something is not ok I think.  Of course I like perfect selfies, but I also like distorted ones that show an ugly face. The urge to do it perfect always will be more tempting for most of us. My best friend ChimKami however is master of doing it the opposite way and post that at Flickr and I adore it. Theda Tammas also is very good at it in my view. ChimKami has told me several times she chooses to do it this way deliberately because the general beauty standards are predictable, boring, all the same and too smooth. She is in love with imperfection and uglyness more.

 

So?

Nothing really, except maybe we could wonder why aesthetics always has to focus on perfectionism. Why is uglyness or imperfection not aesthetic as well in its own way?  Perfectly imperfect. I do not say so because I am some kind of  horror face in RL and seek an excuse to feel beautiful.  In fact people with BDD often are the opposite but just do not see it that way themselves. Like you can applaud for a perfect piece of music being performed, but the performer only having heard that one hardly detectable imperfection of one millisecond and valuing the whole performance on that.

 

Why now?

Why not :)
No, I do have a reason to write on this subject here and now. Since a few weeks I have been struggling with myself in a way that made me very unhappy.  Severe stress, severe rituals and some drastic acts indicating  to have lost control in my BDD part. I never have full contrrol, but it has been long it was this extreme again. I can explain it for myself, so there is some sense in it, (nothing to do with not being happy in a relational way in RL/SL to be clear) but it also triggered something new in me as outcome, quite unexpected and quite radical. I decided to confront and expose myself this week in RL in a way I never dared to do before. Details are too personal, so give me a break on that please, but I know for a fact I did something unbelievably strong and brave in the perspective of my BDD. Maybe even this big it will change my life of anxieties and rituals in a very positive way. It is too early to tell yet, but the first steps and signs are promising.  I have dealt with many failures, so if that will be the case again I also will survive, but I aim to reach a level of liberation I never felt before.

 

The reason I acted like I acted was born from 2 simple ingredients:

1. Enough of hiding and being anxious after the extreme experience

2. Feeling the freedom behind the rituals and wanting to enjoy that after so many years in my personal jail.

I may do a follow up on this later this year.

 

And for your information . . .  I never did things like cosmetic surgery, because I know it is not a solution and also do not want to need that as way to cope. I do have rituals like cutting off hair and therefore I now look like the pic I made a long time ago. It must have been an omen back then and I am beginning to like  her more and more. Not much to hide and very touchable :)

 

For now just this: enjoy your selfies but don’t be too perfect :P
I will sooooooo hate you! ^^

 

 

 

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