Ah, the sexy selfie. Do you like people who splay out their toned flesh all over your Instagram and Facebook feeds? Or do you gawk, but secretly find them super annoying? Be honest.
I don't know about you, but I think unless you're some kind of model, actress, or other "professional attractive person," there's just no need to constantly show people how often you work out or how glossy your hair is. Once in awhile, sure. If you feel particularly great about how you look in a bikini today, more power to you. Dressed to the nines for an event? Great, show it off. But the constant bedroom mirror pics? Come on.
In my book, this applies to guys and girls equally, but a new study published in the Psychology of Popular Media Culture focused on how damaging selfies can be to young women. It pretty much affirmed my opinion. Researchers found that girls who post pics of themselves in revealing outfits are considered less attractive by their female peers, both physically and socially. To test their findings, researchers set up a bunch of fake Facebook profiles showing girls wearing both revealing, low-cut dresses and normal jeans and tops. Participants were asked to rate the subjects based on physical attractiveness ("I think she is pretty"), social attractiveness ("I think she could be a friend of mine"), and task competence ("I have confidence in her ability to get a job done") on a scale from 1 to 7.
Lo and behold, the jeans-wearer got a higher score in all three areas, with the largest difference being in the area of task competence. "This is a clear indictment of sexy social media photos," says Elizabeth Daniels of the Oregon State University, the study's lead researcher. "There is so much pressure on teen girls and young women to portray themselves as sexy, but sharing those sexy photos online may have more negative consequences than positive."
In some ways, girls can't win. But, as Daniels concludes, they'd be better off if they withstood the pressure to look sexy, showing off pics that highlight their personality and interests instead of looks. "Don't focus so heavily on appearance," she says. "Focus on who you are as a person and what you do in the world."
Kelly Rudolph, a life coach and YourTango expert who focuses on empowering women, says that when a woman posts sexy selfies, other women may feel insecure, threatened, or disconnected from her. "Those who feel insecure and threatened may think she is attracting men they would like to attract, which makes her the competition," says Rudolph. "They unknowingly see a reflection of their own insecurities in what they deem as her desperate search for attention." This has been substantiated by another recent study, which found that women view other women who wear red as sexually threatening (although this is slightly more ridiculous, and doubtful to be true if the woman is wearing, like, a red muumuu).
Other, more secure women, may feel a disconnect from the selfie-happy girl and not want to be friends with someone who is "trying so hard", points out Rudolph. "They feel they are past that or above it. No need for drama queen friends when you have decent self-esteem."
I think this is definitely true — those who don't post as many selfies feel sorry for their peers, who they feel are attracting the wrong kind of attention. I say let's retire the sexy selfie and come up with something more empowering already. How about the "I don't give a s**t" selfie? (That's you, with wet hair and no makeup on, eating a candy bar. Doesn't that sound amazing?)
What do you think about sexy selfies? Tell us in the comments below.