Why Do People Dislike Their Selfies?

If you are like me when you take selfies, you take about 100 at a time. That might be a slight exaggeration, but you still take a hefty handful of them. Out of that large amount, it’s lucky if I like two of them let alone even one. Many people, like myself, obsess over their selfies and over analyze them because we think we look bad.  That perception has to do with the brain.

Our brain is used to seeing ourselves in a mirror from our reflection all the time. It has trained itself to become familiar with that image. According to Pamela Rutledge from the Media Psychology Center, familiarity leads to liking, and our brain has a fondness for that exact image.

How do I look one way in the mirror and the total opposite in a selfie? Eileen Shim at Mic notes it’s simply due to a flipped image. When taking selfies or pictures of yourself, some photo apps flip your image. This may be confusing to the viewer. The selfie appears and orients as others would see the subject.  Due to the brain becoming accustomed to viewing images in a specific way, any image that strays from the preferred image looks odd and is ill-received. Take this example of Abraham Lincoln.

True image of Lincoln. Source: http://www.radiolab.org/story/122613-mirror-mirror/

True image of Lincoln.
Source: http://www.radiolab.org/story/122613-mirror-mirror/

Mirrored image of Lincoln Source: http://www.radiolab.org/story/122613-mirror-mirror/

Mirrored image of Lincoln
Source: http://www.radiolab.org/story/122613-mirror-mirror/

The image on the top is the image most people are aware of and familiar with.  However, the flipped image just isn’t right. Our brain is so accustomed to seeing the one version  that the other image is unfamiliar. The reversed image could be that of a long lost twin, but it’s not the same Lincoln that we know and recall. Of course, it is the same exact picture but in mirror image, but our brain associates them as being very different. Our brain also does this with our selfies, as our faces are not symmetrical.

Tabitha Leggett notes in her BuzzFeed post, that our faces are a combination of two asymmetrical halves. She documented and credited the work of photographer, Alex John Beck with proving this point. If one were to take two halves of their face, in replication, and combine them to form a whole or complete face, the results might be unexpected. So, paired mirror images will produce differences ranging from subtle to very clear, as demonstrated in the photo below. Often, this result is so deforming or odd, our brain automatically dislikes the selfie.


source: https://img.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeed-static/static/2014-02/enhanced/webdr04/9/8/enhanced-3714-1391953299-1.jpg?no-auto

Lastly, selfie images are distorted due to camera angle and proximity, and not different lenses. Daniel Baker, lecturer in psychology, notes distortion occurs due to the fact that facial features closer to the camera appear to be larger or exaggerated. So, distance, according to Baker, position of the camera is an important part in the quest for a perfect selfie. The more distance one can put between the face and the phone will result in a much better outcome. A perfect selfie comes from knowing these facts: we have an innate desire and fondness for a perfect mirror image, the face is not symmetrical, and utilizing more distance while taking a selfie, may all result in that perfect shot.


1 thought on “Why Do People Dislike Their Selfies?

  1. mld5569

    This article reminds me a lot of myself and my friends back at home. My friends even had a group message where we would send each other our 100 selfies that we had just taken just to decide which ones to post since we couldn’t decide on our own. Most of the time, we didn’t even listen to each other, we just deleted all of the pictures we took and started over or gave up. I think this article, Science Confirms Selfies are the Worst by Chris O’Shea, really relates to the things you mentioned in your blog post. I hope you like it!

    Here is the link to the article if you were interested in reading it.

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