Low Cost, Low Selfie – esteem

The more we try and edit our images and change our appearance, the less happy we become with the real thing – who we see when we look into a mirror. This has a huge impact on our mental health (Lup et al, 2015). We can become unhappy, critical, insecure, judgemental, jealous, anxious and even depressed people. Once we get into the cycle of not liking the way we look naturally, it becomes very difficult to get out.

There is a vicious cycle that we enter when taking and uploading selfies. Firstly, the individual takes as many photos as they feel they need to, narrows the selfies down, utilises various secondary applications to enhance the image, perfect the image, upload the image and receive likes, comments, followers and attention again. Ultimately increasing their self-esteem. All respondents in their interviews identified with this experience and the correlation between increased likes and enhanced self-esteem.


Photo credit: Hannah Swan

Individuals now confuse online social status with real life significance. Everyone wants his or her life to look good. Seeing our life look good makes us feel good even if that’s not really how it is. Although the rush of excitement from gaining likes and followers on edited selfies may feel great at the time, it can make us feel even more insecure when we know ourselves that we don’t look the same in the offline world. Happiness then becomes temporary and we are never fully satisfied, the vicious cycle then begins again.

Whilst ( App Store, 2016) offers a large range of selfie- help applications as free downloads some of the applications ranked higher on iTunes are at a cost. (Face Tune, 2016) comes in two versions: FaceTune lite which is free and FaceTune which is $5.99. The difference between the two is that the free version lacks a lot of the features, prompting individuals to purchase the app if they want to achieve the perfect selfie. Perfect365 and Airbrush are both free downloads, however the more advanced editing features need to be purchased for $1.50 each. Whilst it may not seem like a major cost to individuals, the time spent on the applications can be costly and detrimental to an individual’s quality of life.

Through selfie – individuals are editing and posting content that does not portray what they look like offline.

So, why do it?

Sometimes insecurities are subtle. We are unaware that our heart is beating that little bit faster after checking our photos that haven’t been liked after a minute or seeing our number of followers decrease. Individuals begin to feel a sudden rush of anxiety and question whether or not it was the right time to upload, the best filter for the image or the right hash tags.

Safranova (2015) examined the social media user’s double life and supports the claim that people are willing to waste their time and money in order to enhance their Instagram status. Safranova (2015) also identifies the anxiety and self-consciousness that underlies the loss of a follower and a decrease in likes. This has led to some users establishing two accounts: one as a commodity, the other being themselves. The commodity account is a ‘fake profile,’ however the purpose of the account is to increase your post with an additional like and follower, as well as improve the Instagram ratio. This ratio is determined by taking the number of people that one is following and dividing that by the people of people that follow them.

In 2014, Instagram deleted millions of accounts in their effort to eliminate spam accounts. Many individuals lost half of their followers, in the case of celebrities millions of followers were lost with Justin Bieber losing 3.5 million followers. Prior to this cull, a market existed within iTunes that allowed users to purchasing “likes and followers”, enhancing the perception of a user’s increased social status. Instagram’s crack down on illegitimate accounts has forced “status concerned” users to post content that will engage their current and future followers. In order to post content that will receive a lot of likes and enhance followers, user relies on the editing applications discussed earlier in order to post what they believe is the best version of themself.

Global self-esteem is conceptualised as one’s positive and negative evaluations of himself or herself and, relatedly, one’s approval or disapproval of the self (Christopher, 2015) Connections can be made between social media and self-esteem. It is conceivable that social media could enhance self-esteem, as individuals have the ability to self-select how they wish to present themselves through editing and filters. Individuals also have the ability to give and receive social support in terms of positive feedback they may not acquire elsewhere. However, on the other hand social media has the ability to lower self esteem through the inherent opportunity to compare oneself to others and the possibility that one may receive, negative or no social feedback aka likes, comments and followers.

Interviewees from the University of Wollongong agreed strongly with the statement: “my self-esteem is increased when I post edited photos because I receive more likes and attention”. However, Dr Pamela B. Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Research Centre claims that as younger users (13-25) are more likely to be impressionable and unaware of this correlation between increased likes and increased self-esteem, there active participation on the platform could become increasingly more damaging to ones self-esteem than the airbrushed images found in magazines.



Christopher, B, 2015, “Let Me Take a Selfie”: Associations Between Self-Photography, Narcissism, and Self-Esteem, Psychology of popular media culture, accessed June 2 2016 < http://ey9ff7jb6l.search.serialssolutions.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/?.>

Davis, E 2015, How Selfies Taught Me Self-Esteem, Huffington Post, viewed 1 May, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emma-davis/how-selfies-taught-me-self-esteem_b_5649733.html

Fleming, O 2014, ”Why Don’t I Look Like Her?”:How Instagram is Ruining our Self-Esteem, Elle, http://www.elle.com/beauty/tips/a2531/how-instagram-is-ruining-our-self-esteem/

Lup, K, Trub, L, Rosenthal, L, 2015, Instagram #instasad?: exploring associations among instagram use, depressive symptoms, negative social comparison, and strangers followed, Cyberpsychology, Behavior And Social Networking [Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw] 2015 May; Vol. 18 (5), pp. 247-52., viewed 2 June

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2016, App Store, Apple, viewed 1 June, 2016 https://search.itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZContentLink.woa/wa/link?mt=8&path=appstore