The story was, of course, made up. AC, which I began to publish in 2013, is a satirical news website that states on its disclaimer: “Everything you read on this site is based on fact, except for the lies.” Its posts are meant to make light of, and ridicule actual situations and developments in the news media and the Internet, as well as in social and political circles.
AC not only made up the name of the disorder (Selfitis); it also listed supposed three levels of the mental disease:
• Borderline: Taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day but not posting them on social media
• Acute: Taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day and posting each one on social media
• Chronic: Uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self around the clock and posting the photos on social media more than six times a day.
The selfitis story was viewed by almost 3 million people worldwide and shared hundreds of times, and despite its satirical nature, it was picked up and passed on as a legitimate story by mainstream news organizations in many countries. It was even translated into several languages.
Now, the made-up story seems to have found ‘legitimacy’ in the academic and scientific circles.
A scientific study conducted by researchers at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom and the Thiagarajar School of Management in India confirms the existence of a selfie phenomenon that may actually be indicative of some psychological ‘disorder.’ Like AC, the study calls it selfitis. (Ironically, ‘selfitis’ might be the wrong medical terminology, because the suffix ‘itis’ refers to an inflammation, as opposed to an addiction.)
They have developed the ‘Selfitis Behaviour Scale’ which can be used to assess its severity, using a large number of focus groups with 200 participants. The scale was tested via a survey of 400 participants.
Participants were based in India because the country has the most users on Facebook, as well as the highest number of deaths as a result of trying to take selfies in dangerous locations.
The findings, published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction confirmed that there are three levels of selfitis — the same levels made up by the 2014 AC story.
Six motivating factors were identified, with selfitis sufferers typically seeking to increase their self-confidence, seeking attention, improving their mood, connecting with the environment around them (to create a record of memories), increasing their conformity with the social group around them, as well as being socially competitive.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction in Nottingham Trent University’s Psychology Department confirmed that their study was prompted by the AC story. He said: “A few years ago, stories appeared in the media claiming that the condition of selfitis was to be classed as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Whilst the story was revealed to be a hoax, it didn’t mean that the condition of selfitis didn’t exist. We have now appeared to confirm its existence and developed the world’s first Selfitis Behaviour Scale to assess the condition.”
Selfitis Behavior Scale
1. Taking selfies gives me a good feeling to better enjoy my environment
2. Sharing my selfies creates healthy competition with my friends and colleagues
3. I gain enormous attention by sharing my selfies on social media
4. I am able to reduce my stress level by taking selfies
5. I feel confident when I take a selfie
6. I gain more acceptance among my peer group when I take selfie and share it on social
7. I am able to express myself more in my environment through selfies
Do you identify with any of the items in the behavior scale? If so, you just might have selfitis!
Sometimes, satire mimics life. In this case, life imitates satire.
Rene Astudillo is a writer, book author and blogger and has recently retired from more than two decades of nonprofit community work in the Bay Area. He spends his time between California and the Philippines.
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