Why We Have a No-Selfie Policy

Taking them adds to our happiness, but posting them brings us down.

Posted Oct 24, 2019

Cristina Zaragoza/Unsplash
Source: Cristina Zaragoza/Unsplash

I am one of “those” parents, according to my 13-year-old daughter.

The overly strict, over-protective mother who won’t let her do anything, she says.

Of course, she said this after a sleepover, a trip to the skating rink, and immediately after I asked her to unload the dishwasher. But her frustration wasn’t about the chores. It was over our Selfie Policy.

We do have a Selfie Policy. It’s this: We don’t do it. Our daughter is not allowed to post “selfies” online. I rarely do it myself. I just don’t like ‘em.

Is it a privacy thing for me? Maybe a little. It does feel a little intrusive and self-absorbed. 

Mostly, it’s just not something I think about. When I’m out with my friends or eating a great meal, or in a cool locale, I want to be all in. Rarely do I stop to filter the emotion of the moment through my phone’s camera app.

But my daughter does. Photos are part of how she and her friends are capturing and communicating their experiences now. Posting a selfie is a way to connect, garner attention—the good and the bad—and even some support. “Likes” are a sign of popularity.

Yet, several studies indicate that while we are happy when we take a selfie, the photos aren’t well received by those who see them. In one study published in Frontiers in Psychology, Sarah Diefenbach, a professor at Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, found that nearly 82 percent of the people surveyed would rather see pictures of something other than a selfie.

The majority of the 238 people surveyed for the study believe there are negative consequences of posting a selfie online. In other research, those who view selfies tend to consider their relationship with the person in the picture as shallow and less intimate. 

Research led by psychologist Christopher Barry from Washington State University shows that people who post frequent selfies are considered less successful, more insecure, and generally less likable. Whoa. Yet people who post shots of themselves taken by others were viewed positively. 

While we may not like looking at selfies, we do like taking them. Diefenbach’s research found that 77 percent of us like to take the pictures. 

I didn’t know any of this when I put the house Selfie Policy in place. I just don’t want pics of my young, growing teen daughter online for everyone to see, judge, criticize, compliment, and Photoshop. It makes me uncomfortable.

But I’m not a complete curmudgeon. I am one of the 77 percent who thinks it can be fun sometimes, to get a group together, gathered in close, to mark the moment by taking a selfie. When we are out as a family or being silly, we will selfiesize and on occasion text it to the grandparents or a close friend who might appreciate it. We just don’t usually post them online.   

And the pics that others are posting, I just skim right by. They don’t capture my attention. But, show a pic of you at the Grand Canyon, or your kid graduating, or that awesome, adorable puppy you just picked up, and I’m all in. Right there with you. Clicking through your photos. Sharing in the good vibes.

As for me, I’ll stick to cutting apart my daughter’s school pictures and mailing them out in the holiday cards, at least for a bit longer. Even though I know these, too, are online somewhere. We had to order them digitally.