Obsessive Selfie Takers Show Psychopathic Tendencies

Life in the 21st Century demands a high degree of patience, tolerance and understanding when it comes to social media.

I assure you I am not overstating it. Here is a for instance. How about all of those inane posts people think they have the God given right to share on Facebook? You know the ones I’m talking about. Every time someone exercises a bodily function they post it on Facebook. They stub their toe and they share it on, you guessed it, Facebook.

Now, I’m not against Facebook. Well, that is not strictly true. I have a few issues with Facebook but I’ll save my personal grievance for another time.

It just seems that every new example of Social Media sharing, morphs into yet another excuse for people to talk about ‘me’ as if we all haven’t heard enough of ‘me.’ By ‘me’, of course, I’m talking about the universal ‘me’. I’m talking about the people who need to stop and think before writing yet another stupid Facebook post about something inconsequential. Social media has made us self obsessed.

The latest trend that everyone seems to be getting terribly excited about is a piece of social media self obsession called Instagram. Maybe Instagram isn’t new and has been around for a while and I just didn’t notice. What do you expect? I’m old.

Facebook and Instagram have become the two main repositories for something that deserves zero tolerance. And that is people who take ‘selfies’, or pictures of themselves. Glorified narcissism I call it. And here is an excellent reason, if we needed one, to put a stop to selfies.

A new study published in the journal of Personality and Individuals says that men who take a lot of selfies score much higher on tests looking for signs of psychopathy. In other words there is a link between taking selfies and being a psychopath. Doesn’t surprise me in the least.

The research conducted by Ohio State University, found that those men who would be classified as very fond of taking a selfie, displayed a wide range of antisocial behaviours.

The study comprised 800 men between the ages of 18 and 40 were surveyed on their attitude towards posting photographs of themselves on social media. Impulsiveness and a lack of empathy were among the most prevalent personality traits, while unsurprisingly (to me) the respondents were also found to possess high levels of narcissism.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, the main author of the study, Assistant Professor of Communications Jesse Fox, said it was unsurprising to find that those who spend time editing their photos showed definite signs of narcissism, adding that “this is the first time it has actually been confirmed in a study.”

“The more interesting finding is that they score higher on this other antisocial personality trait, psychopathy, and are more prone to self objectification,” Professor Fox said.

The goal of the study was to examine “The Dark Triad,” a trio of personality traits – narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy – along with self-objectification, as predictors for social behaviour. Self-objectification is a personality trait that means you value appearance above everything else. It can mean your own appearance or how others appear to you. Personality wise it can lead to the individual discounting and ignoring other people based purely on how they look.

“We know that self-objectification leads to a lot of terrible things, like depression and eating disorder in women,” Professor Fox said.

Fox believes that self-objectification has become an ever increasing problem due primarily to the continued and expanding use of social media.

“That means self objectification may become a bigger problem for men, as well as for women,” Professor Fox said.

The study was also able to determine that through a combination of personality traits such as narcissism, Machiavellianism, (which is the use of cunning and duplicity in every day conduct) and psychopathy, researchers could accurately predict the length of time the men, who took part in the study, spent on social networks. For example, the traits of narcissism and psychopathy could be directly related to a predicted number of selfies that were posted on each of the respondents social media sites.

The study is now being expanded to determine if women also possess the same personality traits as men, or if their obsession with selfies comes from a different set of motivating factors.

It just goes to show at the heart of every selfie, lurks the personality of Hannibal Lector. You have been warned.

Are Smart Phones Turning Us Into Dummies?

Sometimes I like to observe human behavior. I find it kind of fun watching what other people do and how they behave. But I am also a bit weird.

One thing I’ve noticed quite recently is that it doesn’t seem to matter what people are doing, travelling on public transport, going to the pub, sitting having a meal or enjoying time with friends, everybody is totally preoccupied with their smartphones.

They’re looking at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, video games, emails, listening to music or just surfing the net. Clearly all of these smartphones, provide endless distraction and entertainment.

But what are these devices doing for human interaction? Because it means people are not talking to each other.

They are not verbally sharing opinions, discussing ideas or having a debate.

They have stopped communicating with human beings and replaced them with a machine.

Here is a question that is too obvious, but I’ll ask it anyway. Is this a good thing? Could it be affecting how we think?

A British neuroscientist called Baroness Susan Greenfield doesn’t think this is a good thing at all. She also says it’s affecting our brains.

Now I am going to add a disclaimer.

I am not endorsing Susan Greenfield or her neuroscience. In fact a number of her peers think she espouses a load of old rubbish. The London Guardian newspaper described a book she wrote as a “poorly researched diatribe.”

But what I do think is that what she is saying is worth a discussion. So let’s have one.

Susan Greenfield says modern technology is changing the wiring in our brains. For example she says a lot of people equate Facebook friends in the same way that they might regard a close friend they have known all of their life.

She says social media gives us opportunities to share, connect and present points of view. But it takes away real human empathy. In fact she says the 21st Century human mindset seems to be characterised by short attention span, sensationalism, and making the mistake of equating information given to us by search engines with real knowledge and wisdom.

Greenfield says the human brain is perfectly designed to adapt to its environment. And because technology creates a vastly changed social environment, it must follow that our brains may also be changing in an unprecedented way.

Here is something that she says that is definitely out there but interesting.

Greenfield argues that young people are developing in a world where relationships are being made and lost online. That means they never get the chance to rehearse important social skills. For example, when people normally meet someone they have in interest in getting to know, they want to talk about themselves, and nature has given us body language cues so that our interactions keep us reasonably safe and secure and we don’t make fools of ourselves, generally speaking.

But words, the primary source of communication in social media networks comprise only ten percent of the impact we have on people when we meet them. As a result, young people are more likely to behave inappropriately and insult each other on line because they don’t have those visual clues as a point of reference. If they tell someone they hate them to their face they are unlikely to repeat it because they can see the offence and the hurt it can cause. But people interacting on social media don’t have that handbrake. I am not saying I agree with this but it’s interesting.

Before we had the internet, a young person who might have been bullied at school had an escape when they went home. But with social media and smartphones the bullying follows you everywhere and can be unrelenting 24/7.

Greenfield claims there is scientific data to show that when young people were deprived of access to smartphones even for just five days their interpersonal skills improved.

Our connectedness to social media means we spend less time thinking and reflecting and more time reacting. She says if young people switched off their devices they would have a stronger sense of personal identity instead of one that is constantly defined by the approval of others.

It doesn’t mean being anti-technology but it does mean acknowledging there is more to life than looking at a smartphone, a tablet or a computer screen.

On that point I agree with her.

Is There A Right To Privacy?

This is an important topic because it affects everyone. I’m talking about the right to privacy. The way life as we know it is heading (maybe it’s already there and I haven’t noticed) you can’t call privacy a right anymore. It is a right that doesn’t exist in much the same way that the notion of privacy doesn’t exist. Neither ‘right’ nor’ privacy’ exist in the same sentence especially if you happen to be famous or well known. And that is very troubling.

Here’s an example of what I mean. A woman and her new partner, celebrities for want of a better word as a result of a television reality show, left a café hand in hand. It was Sunday morning and breakfast time.

Their behaviour was nothing out of the ordinary apart from the fact that up until recently both of them were in previous relationships that each of them ended, so the two of them could be together.

But no need for anyone to be judgmental. This kind of thing happens all the time so no big deal. But what happened next was a big deal.

Ten meters from where they were walking was a paparazzi, a photographer who makes his money from taking pictures of celebrities in unguarded moments like this. He was armed with a digital SLR camera and a zoom lens the size of a stretched limo and he was firing a succession of shots aimed at them.

Clearly this couple, a man and a woman, as far as the photographer was concerned, could not be said to be entitled to walk down the street, in quiet enjoyment on a Sunday morning. And that is the point.

Really, I suppose the question that should be asked is what did they expect?

If your face is on TV, on airport bookshelves, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and the backs of buses then you must accept that you are fair game. You can’t assume or presume you have anywhere to hide.

Nor should you think you have a right to expect that you can or should.

But is that right? Of course it isn’t. But let’s face it. You don’t need to be a celebrity to end up having issues over privacy.

We live in a share-happy world. Many of us choose to play out our lives online, on smart phones, tablets and in social media. In order to get anywhere either socially or professionally we are told we must have multiple social media accounts that need to be maintained regularly. If search engines look hard enough they can uncover practically every detail about personal histories real or imagined. So is it any wonder that under those circumstances, the notion of privacy is completely redundant?

A more important question might be, do people really want privacy anymore? Because if they do they certainly have a funny way of showing it.

Look at the 21st century phenomena. Mirrored selfies uploaded to Instagram, badly considered tweets that come back to haunt us, smartphone applications that can access our information such as name, age, gender, user ID, shopping preferences, list of friends. We give companies vital information to target us with very specific advertisements. Even photographs of where we live can be found online, there for all the world to see.

It’s certainly there for criminals to see as well. How much easier have we made it for them to plot entry and exit points so they can break in to our homes and steal our property? Think Google Maps streetview.

All of us are exposed. It’s happening every day of our lives. What used to be done in private is now public. Voluntary or involuntary. It doesn’t seem to matter.

But that development also comes with some disturbing consequences.

The recent hacking of very private photos of a number of Hollywood actors is a salient reminder of how much privacy we can no longer take for granted. We have handed over powerful tools to those who might want to do us harm.

The sad death of a twenty-one-year-old Queensland woman is a classic example of what I am talking about. She was bombarded with a barrage of abusive text messages from an estranged boyfriend in the weeks before she took her own life. The magistrate who sentenced her boyfriend to two months jail said the hundreds of text messages amounted to a campaign of “gratuitous harassment” that constituted domestic violence.

Experts say smartphones give abusive partners sophisticated new ways to track, harass and control. And that presents a major challenge to domestic violence campaigners.

According to a Domestic Violence Resource Centre in Victoria a survey they did from last year, showed that more than 80 per cent of domestic violence workers reported that smartphones and social media were being used to stalk victims.

Meanwhile, Women’s Legal Services NSW report that smartphones were a factor in about 80 per cent of  cases involving family law, domestic violence and sexual assault.

Libby Davies, the chief executive officer of antiviolence campaign White Ribbon, said harassment via text was “absolutely” on the rise in Australia and there was a growing prevalence of men using tracking apps and spyware on their partners’ phones to “infringe their freedoms.”

She said controlling partners loaded these apps on to their partners’ phones without their knowledge so they could track their movements and know immediately where they were at any point in the day.

Other apps were being used to remotely monitor their partners’ texts, phone calls, emails and web browsing history.

Women’s Services Network chairwoman Julie Oberin told a Senate inquiry earlier this month that she noticed technology was making the response to domestic violence more difficult.

She said women who were placed in safe houses in regional Victoria were later discovered by their former partners through a smartphone global positioning system (GPS).

The Women’s Services Network also relayed an example of how a woman was sent videos of herself in her lounge room by a former partner who had hacked into her smart TV.

Online youth mental health service provider ReachOut.com reports that one in five young people have been the victim of bullying and harassment from text messages.

A spokesperson said  If you ” look at this statistic alongside partner violence statistics, it paints a very concerning picture, especially for people under 25.”

There is no way that  these developments could be said to be positive or desirable.

In fact the opposite is the case.

We are making it easier for people to do us harm. Nothing smartphone about that.