In Thailand, a country where mental health often remains an under-discussed issue, the pervasive “selfie” culture on social media highlights a growing concern. Too often, our young people have social media accounts dedicated to just and only their image. The development of the Selfitis Behavior Scale (SBS) sheds light on this phenomenon, revealing that the compulsion to post selfies is not just a benign habit but can escalate into an obsession driven by the need for social validation and self-promotion. This obsession, characterized by an incessant pursuit of likes and comments, mirrors broader issues of self-esteem and identity in the digital age.

The Selfitis Behavior Scale (SBS) was developed through a study that investigated the phenomenon of “selfitis,” initially considered a hoax but later explored as a potential psychological condition. This scale was created following focus group interviews and exploratory factor analysis with university students, identifying six factors driving selfie obsession: environmental enhancement, social competition, attention seeking, mood modification, self-confidence, and social conformity. The SBS aims to assess the severity of selfitis across these dimensions, providing a framework for understanding how excessive selfie-taking may impact individuals’ psychological well-being.

The Selfitis Behavior Scale (SBS) study suggests a correlation between excessive selfie-taking and factors indicative of mental health concerns, such as the need for attention, mood modification, and social competition.

For Thai youth, this digital validation becomes a double-edged sword, exacerbating existing mental health challenges and fostering a culture of comparison and dissatisfaction. Given the backdrop of Thailand’s already strained mental health dialogue, the rise of selfitis signals an urgent need to prioritize mental wellness alongside digital literacy. It’s crucial to encourage a balanced online presence, emphasizing real-world interactions and activities that reinforce self-worth beyond the digital sphere.

To help young people find real-world experiences over digital validation, it’s essential to encourage activities that foster genuine self-esteem and interpersonal connections. Initiating involvement in sports, arts, and community service can provide fulfilling experiences and a sense of accomplishment outside social media. Promoting digital detoxes or setting specific times away from screens can help shift the focus to real-life interactions. Engaging in conversations about the unrealistic standards often portrayed online can also aid in developing critical thinking about social media’s impact on self-perception. By prioritizing these approaches, we can guide young individuals towards valuing real-world experiences and relationships over online validation.

Governments can help by integrating digital literacy and mental health education into school curriculums, promoting campaigns on the healthy use of social media, and funding community programs that offer young people opportunities for real-world engagement. They can also regulate social media platforms to ensure safer online environments.

Parents can help by setting a positive example in their own use of technology, encouraging open discussions about the impact of social media, and actively participating in or facilitating their children’s involvement in offline activities that build skills, confidence, and real-world connections.

Schools can play a significant role by incorporating lessons on digital literacy and social media awareness into their curriculums, helping students understand the impact of online behavior on mental health. Educators can also promote extracurricular activities that offer meaningful offline experiences, fostering a sense of community and real-world skills. Providing access to mental health resources and creating a supportive environment where students can discuss their experiences and concerns about social media use are crucial steps in guiding young individuals towards healthier digital habits.

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Author: Arun Saronchai