Experts: 'Selfie syndrome' not necessarily narcissistic

SEATTLE - Sometimes it's a picture with a pouty face, or a tongue sticking out and wide eyes. Or it could be a smiling face against a local background.

Either way, it's known as a "selfie" - a photo of oneself taken with a smartphone.

A lot of young people seem to be obsessed with taking pictures of themselves and posting it to Instagram and Facebook. But some experts say, it doesn't mean they're narcissistic or vain - in fact, it's perfectly normal.

With phone in hand after school, Dana Wolf, an eighth-grader at Federal Way Public Academy, says it's just fun.

"When you post a selfie, it's like more people on Instagram can, like, see what you look like."

Ninth-grader Mary Thompson concedes the constant feedback is addicting.

"Seems to always be a competition nowadays to see who has the most followers and who can get the most 'likes' on their pictures," she says.

Dr. Jana Mohr-Lone, who heads up the University of Washington's Philosophy for Children Department, says it may seem narcissistic, but she's convinced this is just how adolescents engage with one another in a social media-driven world.

"Questions like 'who am I' and 'how do others see me' are really a very natural development part of being an adolescent," says Mohr-Lone.

The doctor even finds some value in the "selfie."

"They're not just, 'Ya know, do I look OK? How do I look?' that kind of thing, but they're also conveying feelings and reactions and sometimes images can do that way more clearly than words."

Dr. Mohr-Lone says it can become a problem when teens are unable to filter opinions or negative comments about that picture they posted, or if the phone and computer are the only "real" connection the young person is able to have with the world.

"There is this real hunger for authentic deep interaction, and the more of that you can give, the more I think young people will come to seek it out," she says.

The bottom line, the doctor says, is don't panic about "selfie syndrome," but it might be a good idea to put down your own phone and engage with your kids.