Tuesday, July 11, 2017
The Problem With Male Nude Selfies
If you are building a tech product that has anything to do with photos then you’re probably feeling an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu lately, and it has to do with data security.
It had become so routine that throughout the fall it was hard to imagine a Monday without hearing about another set of iCloud photos that been hacked during the weekend.
And these aren’t just typical pictures of the girl down the street or the guy next door.
Apple/iCloud products were at risk for getting hacked, but they aren’t the only ones. So was Snapchat, and probably all other major sites hosting photos. Scandals have been popping up again and again around hacked photos, especially nude ones. So, why do we keep seeing these scandals? There are two opposing camps trying to explain why we’re having nude photo leaks, but who’s right?
One group says something like, “Enough, children. Want to stop nude photos from getting hacked? Keep your clothes on in selfies and the problem will go away by itself.” Those on the other side of the debate insist we must not blame the victim and instead should demand better privacy protections for iCloud and other digital storage accounts.
Sound familiar? That’s because it is. We’ve had scandals about hacked photos going back every year for almost 10 years, and people keep writing these same reactions after each one.
Annually rehashing this debate for a decade hasn’t gotten us too far. While we should expect companies to update security features, we can also expect hackers will continue improving their toolkits. And as for warning people to not take nude selfies, since when has issuing warnings been the key to changing behavior?
Education and warnings will not solve problems unless the problems were caused by lack of knowledge.
Why, then, do people keep taking naked digital pictures of themselves and store them in places that could be hacked? They were probably aware of the other nude photo scandals that occurred so it’s not that they don’t know what’s going on.
There’s actually a science behind why we keep seeing these repeated nude photo scandals - the science of social.
The truth is, sexting - sending sexually suggestive photos or videos via cell phone - is increasingly common among people aged 25-34. According to a recent Pew Report, 15 percent of adults ages 18-24 and 22 percent of adults ages 25-34 admit to having sent such a message. Knowing that, it’s less of a surprise that in the past year, thousands of young people have had their nude photos hacked, including famous ones like Jennifer Lawrenceand Mila Kunis.
Are we saying, then, that this is simply a case of peer pressure? Nope. Our research at the UCLA Center for Digital Behavior has revealed that our perceptions of what is normal in our social networks affects our behavior. In one study, college students viewed a selection of Facebook photos of their peers and were then asked to estimate the percentage of students who engaged in sex without condoms and sex with strangers, and whether they themselves behave this way.
When students saw more sexually suggestive photos of their peers (e.g. kissing, flirting with the camera, wearing revealing clothing), they reasoned that more of their peers were having unprotected sex and sex with strangers. They also said that they themselves planned on having more sex without condoms and sex with strangers.
What people think their peers are doing (regardless of what they are actually doing) influences their behavior. If people think their friends are taking naked selfies and putting these pics online (even if the truth is that their friends are sitting at home chatting with mom), then they will start uploading selfies in the buff. And this psychology isn’t unique to only youth. It affects all of human behavior.
So what should you do if you’re working on a photo-related technology and want a solution other than more data security to keep your product out of the hacking spotlight? My advice, as a behavioral psychologist, is that adding another few lines to your legal page or slapping on a data security warning pop-up about the risks of photo hacking won’t work just like it doesn’t work for smoking, alcohol use or most other behaviors.
You have got to change the social environment to change the behavior. The short answer to change user behavior is to build a community around how people upload and share pictures. Create a social norm on what types of photos should be taken and shared using your technology.
It might sound difficult, but there’s a science behind how to create a community for positive social change, and you can find that information right here.
Behavior-change campaigns work by understanding and changing the social environment. If a site wants to reduce the amount of sexts on its platform, they must similarly apply this science of social.
Editor’s Note: Sean Young, PhD, MS, is the executive director of the UCLA Center for Digital Behavior and a Medical School Professor in the UCLA Department of Family Medicine.
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According to new research, selfies can say a lot about your personality, and not in a good way.
In a recent Ohio State University study, men who posted more photos of themselves online scored higher in measures of narcissism and psychopathy.
The researchers asked 800 men between the ages of 18 and 40 to fill out an online questionnaire asking about their photo posting habits on social media. The survey included questions about how often they posted photos of themselves on social media, and about whether and how they edited photos before posting. The participants were also asked to fill out standard questionnaires measuring anti-social behaviors and self-objectification (the tendency to overly focus on one’s appearance).
The researchers found that posting more photos was correlated with both narcissism and psychopathy. Editing photos, however, was only associated with narcissism, and not psychopathy. Narcissism measures inflated self-image (often motivated by underlying insecurity), while psychopathy involves a lack of empathy and impulsive behavior.
“That makes sense because psychopathy is characterized by impulsivity,” the study’s lead author, Jesse Fox, said in a statement. “They are going to snap the photos and put them online right away. They want to see themselves. They don’t want to spend time editing.”
These findings don’t mean that men who post selfies are actually narcissists or psychopaths, it does mean that they scored higher than others in these anti-social traits, although they were still within the normal range of behavior.
Previous studies have also linked heavy Facebook use with low self-esteem and narcissism. According to one study, it’s not so much spending an excessive amount of time on Facebook so much as having an unrealistically large number of friends that is correlated with having a narcissistic personality.
The Ohio State study also found that editing photos of oneself was associated with higher levels of self-objectification.
“With the growing use of social networks, everyone is more concerned with their appearance,” Fox said in the statement. “That means self-objectification may become a bigger problem for men, as well as for women.”
The findings were published online in the journal Personality and Individual Differences