NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Recently, certain public displays such as the "selfie" have been trending on social media as a means for spreading awareness of chronic illnesses. The public has begun to use outlets like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to post photos of all sorts, claiming that they are an expression of solidarity in fighting various diseases, the majority of which are cancers.

The discussion on the table now is this: what is the driving force behind these photos? Are they purely altruistic, or instead fueled by vanity? While spreading awareness for chronic illnesses is, in itself, considered a noble action, these new demonstrations are enough to make a person wonder where the line is drawn between the two forces. While some of these photos can be powerful and moving, others, such as the "no makeup selfie" for breast cancer, call into question the motive of the photographers.

Michal Ann Strahilevitz , professor at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California, is a researcher on the topic of charitable giving . Strahilevitz weighs in on the subject by explaining how donating to charities and spreading awareness can sometimes be a selfish, not selfless act, making people feel good about themselves. So, while helping out different causes is known to be generous, people also enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that it gives them internally.

"We can say that people's motivation for good deeds should be pure altruism, but research shows that often there is more than one motive for giving," says Strahilevitz. "There is a warm glow we get from helping others. There is also the fact that it improves our self-concept and potentially our self-esteem. Finally, there is improving our image to others, if others learn of our efforts for charity. All of this is the truth about giving-- we don't just give to help the cause, we also give for the good feelings it gives us."

And, while this self-gratification can be considered vain, drawing attention to a charity can still generate an overall positive effect.

Focusing in on the other side of things, Dr. Ramani Durvasula, licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology , finds that these modern times have brought about an epidemic of narcissism and now, more than ever, people are focused on gaining attention from others. She finds that people who tend to have a weaker ego require more attention and continue to push the envelope to the point where their actions become less about the charity and more about the hope of self-promotion.

It is her professional opinion that people most likely maintain that if their inappropriate or outrageous actions are done in the spirit of charity then that lends greater nobility to them. Durvasula explains that she "finds it hard to believe that these bizarre and at times inappropriate or just too disclosing images are really bringing in all that much money – and instead are giving what feels like a legitimate platform for attention seekers to attention seek."