Health And Wellness

6 Sneaky Ways A Selfie Obsession Damages Someone's Health

Photo: Dan Rentea / Shutterstock
woman taking selfie

You probably have one of three very distinct selfie personalities. You either detest them (you'd never take one, let alone post one on social media), you take so many selfies you give Kim K. a run for her money, or you swear you're not that kind of person...but sometimes snap 'em on the sly. We don't mean to be the selfie police (selfie sticks, on the other hand...), but they're not always the harmless photo op you might think.

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Here are 6 sneaky ways selfies destroy people's health:

1. They draw out your narcissistic side

We know it's not called anti-social media, but posting too many selfies isn't necessarily putting your best foot forward.

In a 2014 Ohio State University study of 1,000 men, researchers found that guys who posted more selfies also ranked higher on scales of narcissism and psychopathy. Now, the selfie-takers were still in the normal range of these undesirable traits—but there are better sides of you to display, we're sure of it.

2. Selfies could seriously endanger you

While you're busy perfecting your duck face, you might be putting yourself directly in harm's way. Selfie-snappers have died—yes, died—pursuing the perfect pic atop tall buildings, hanging off bridges, and toeing the edges of cliffs. Is it really worth it?!

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3. They might — emphasis on "might" — put you at risk for lice

A Wisconsin pediatrician made waves when she hypothesized in a local news segment that an uptick of lice cases in her office over the past 5 years could be linked to selfies. A stretch? Maybe, but it's not a totally outlandish proposal: The pose we make with friends to get both of us in the frame in a selfie—usie?—does put heads in closer contact than usual. But there's no solid evidence supporting this theory.

4. Selfies can distort your body image

All that obsessing over the perfect angle and lighting doesn't seem to be doing adolescents any favors. Tween girls who shared the most selfies on social media were more likely to feel dissatisfied with their bodies and to idealize a conventionally thin standard of beauty, according to a 2015 study from a team of Australian researchers.

They were also more likely to restrict their eating, compared with girls who posted fewer selfies.

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5. They can hurt your selfie-snapping elbow

Taking too many selfies can hurt—literally. As with any other overuse injury, abusing your appendages to snap the perfect pic can cause wear and tear.

Apparently, overzealous selfie fans can fall victim to inflammation and irritation of the muscles and tendons around the elbow, resulting in pain similar to that of tennis elbow, says Shoshana Gelb, DPT, clinical director at Brookfield Place Professional Physical Therapy in New York City. "If you're taking too many selfies or taking several pictures at once while holding your hand in that position if the tendons and muscles aren't strong, that creates tension," she explains.

Luckily, ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory meds can usually nip this pain in the bud—but you'll have to lay off the selfies for a while, too. Add it to the list of technology-induced discomforts like text neck and Blackberry thumb.

6. Silver lining: Selfies might make you happier

We can't completely hate the selfie: A small University of California Irvine study published in July 2016 tasked college students with a simple photo assignment.

They were assigned to one of three groups and instructed to either take selfies, snap photos of something that made them happy, or take photos of something that would make a friend happy. Then they sent their photos to a friend. Feelings of happiness and positivity increased in all three groups—and the selfie-takers even reported a little boost in confidence in their smiles over the 3-week study period.

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Sarah Klein is a Boston-based writer, editor, and personal trainer currently with, and previously with Health, Prevention Magazine, and The Huffington Post. 

This article was originally published at Prevention. Reprinted with permission from the author.