Michelle Bruno, a counseling professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, believes this widespread cultivation of the "perfect" image is exacerbating the struggle that many teenage girls already have with negative self-image.
"As adolescents, they are already engaging in social comparisons and fighting unrealistic media images at every turn," notes Bruno
, who studies trauma and resiliency in adolescent girls.
Now they are also faced with the seemingly perfect images being portrayed on their friends' social media accounts and on other websites.
"[Adolescent girls] strive to maintain an online image and presence, to either take the 'perfect' picture or at least edit it in a way that makes it look perfect," Bruno
According to Bruno
, girls may obsess over several types of questions with their selfies.
Among them: Is the lighting right?
How about the pose?
Are my friends editing their photos a lot, or do they just naturally look better than me?
asserts that women and girls are already socialized to value themselves on the basis of their appearance, and selfies create virtually endless opportunities to self-critique.
And once their images become public via social media and the Internet, the likelihood that these girls will be demeaned, belittled or sexualized greatly increases, Bruno
"Additionally, girls can learn to garner their value from this external reinforcement," she
"They do not learn how to value themselves.
They base their value on the reactions, 'likes,' responses and ideals of others.
Experiencing this at a time when self-esteem and cognitive development are still forming is particularly worrisome, Bruno
However, if social media and the Internet are often judged to be bad influences on the self-worth of female adolescents, so too can they help to counter the negative messages that girls are receiving, Bruno
The widespread connectivity that the Internet allows can enable girls to find groups and individuals who want to emphasize positive messages about self-esteem and self-worth.
"There are currently many websites and Facebook pages full of many voices that advocate for body-positive, self-affirming and gender-equalizing stances," says Bruno
, citing examples such as A Mighty Girl, Girls Inc.
, Amy Poehler's Smart Girls and To Write Love on Her Arms.
In our celebrity-obsessed culture, these messages can have a profound effect on girls, Bruno
If people can change the critical things they tell themselves and focus on finding things they like about how they look, Bruno
says, selfies can be used as a tool to allow girls and women to see and define their own unique beauty.
"We must create platforms to discuss and combat the messaging and the factors that contribute to the way we see ourselves," she
Michelle Bruno at firstname.lastname@example.org