By Zia Darakshan
Social networking websites are powerful tools more powerful with a smartphone, a deadly combination. They not only impact lives for good but have had a huge impact on the psychology as well.
One effect of it is that everyone is opinionated, makes one believe that he or she too is a celebrity, the urge to be different, and be known has led to a disease called Selfitis.
The term ‘Selfitis’ was first coined in 2014 by American psychiatric Association which classified it as a mental disorder. To be precise, it is a form of narcissism where one feels compelled to take selfies and continually posts them on social media.
The reason for risking life by doing unusual feats while taking a selfie, is just an act of gaining online appreciation in the form of ‘likes’ on social media networking sites.
Notably, psychologists have warned that ‘selfitis’ is an ailment that needs attention and people who suffer from this disease need help.
The findings,published in the International Journal of mental health and addiction confirmed that there are three levels of selfitis:
“Borderline: Borderline cases are people who take selfies at least three times a day, but do not post them on social media.
Acute: Acute phase of the disorder is when people post selfies on the social network sites.
Chronic: It’s a stage in ‘selfitis’ when people feel an uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self round the clock, posting them more than six times a day.”
According to researchers, those suffering from ‘selfitis’ are often lacking self confidence and are constantly seeking attention to gain approval among their peer groups. They have this belief that posting their selfies on social network sites boosts their social standing.
India tops the obsession level associated with selfies in the world.
With 49 selfie deaths since 2014, 19 deaths have taken place in India, according to a survey conducted by San Fransisco based data analytics company- Priceonomics.
The disease is so prevalent that the Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi declared it as a national problem in 2015.
The way younger generation would go to any extent to take a selfie, upload it on social media and garner likes or comments. They don’t mind in getting to the top of the cliff, stand middle of a busy road, get themselves trapped in deep river or sea, climbing top of the building, hanging from a fast running train, even posing with a live ammunition or with any ferocious animal.
Death due to this narcissistic behavior does not demotivate selfie lovers.
There are a number of incidents that take place on daily basis where selfie lovers meet dreadful end of their lives.
A group of boys from Bengaluru were crushed by a train when they were busy in capturing their selfies. A young boy drowned in a pond even as his friends were clicking selfies. They were so busy that they didn’t even notice their classmate was drowning right behind them. The group realized what had happened only when one of them was going through the pictures and saw their friend drowned to death in the background.
Another teenage boy shot himself in the head while posing for a selfie. The victim had to tap the camera button but accidently set off the gun instead.
In another incident in Orissa a man fell prey to a bear while taking selfie with the wild animal. The man spotted the bear in the forest on his way with some passengers, who were returning from a wedding function. The passengers opposed him to get down from the vehicle in the forest when this person (driver of the vehicle)expressed his interest to click a selfie with the animal. The bear killed the man on the spot. Worth mentioning, the locals, who were witnessing the entire scene, were busy in shooting the incident with their mobile phones without trying to rescue the victim. A dog came forward to save the driver but failed to save him from the bear.
Very recently, a lady school teacher from Ganderbal was drowned in the deep river while taking selfie. Her body till date remains untraced.
Such suicidal incidents, tip of an iceberg though, are growing in number across length and breadth of the country.
Just like a color blind person can’t see any color other than white, similarly a ‘selfitis’ infected person can’t see anything, be it a drowning person, person falling from a building or a person being looted by a rogue etc. The disease forces a victim to click selfies with a person engulfed by misfortune of misery just to earn online appreciation.
A very peculiar kind of behaviour during the funeral of slain militants or civilians is surprising, rather ironical. Taking selfies with dead bodies is a new norm emerging here.
One can imagine the pain, anxiety and trauma experienced at the loss of some dear one but selfie lovers have their own way of expressing grief also. This is saddening part of our society that when one has to be around showering his empathy to the affected families of conflict, the selfie lover accompanies the dead body to the grave in pursuit of catching the last glimpse in his insensitive mobile phone.
Now, it’s interesting to note fast changing trends in selfie syndrome. Earlier we used to have common people obsessed by selfie syndrome however, things have changed and now we have celebrities from showbiz and entertainment, politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen etc joining the mad race of narcissistic selfie craze.
It was always a curiosity for a common man to know about how a celebrity like film star would wear, eat, go out ,etc . We always wanted to know more about our favourite stars. But times have changed our filmstars too have joined the mad race of clicking, pouting, uploading and garnering likes for their pictures. It does not matter whether you missed your favourite stars’ wedding pictures or the dress they wore at particular occasion. You can simply watch everything on social networking sites. Leaving no scope for paparazzi either.
Even our politicians are displaying their favourite T-shirts and clips of gymnasium work outs. They would not shy away by smashing an MRF tyre or do few push-ups showing off their muscles.
In succinct, ‘selfitis’ is affecting all of us in one way or the other. Although it might make us popular among our community but the sad part of the story is that people suffering from ‘selfitis’ actually don’t enjoy the every good bit of life, be it the smell of dust after rain or playing with your little ones, because the affected people are busy in clicking, pouting, uploading and garnering ‘likes’ for their selfies.
Since the disease is epidemic in nature and is invading human race without respecting borders, there is a new kind of responsibility for those at the helm of affairs where they have to prioritize awareness programmes about this dreaded and sugarcoated disease called ‘SELFITIS’.
(The author is Associate Editor at INS)