Love it or loathe it, the ‘selfie’ is here to say. Oxford Dictionary even defines it as an ‘informal noun’. I’m sure you are aware that the word was born via social media; its roots are firmly embedded in the hashtag. However the surprise comes via the growth scale. The word ‘selfie’ has increased in frequency of use by 17,000% in the last year alone.
There is some history to the ‘selfie’, believed to date back to the early 1900’s with Edwardian ladies photographing themselves in mirrors. The difference between a ‘selfie’ and a portrait is that the person takes a photographic image of themselves – and apparently self-portrait paintings don’t count (sorry, Van Gogh). Since entering the dictionary, it now appears that uploading to a social website is also now part of the terminology, although perhaps there is also room for ‘photographs taken of oneself with the intent of sharing’.
It is believed that the word was founded as far back as 2002, in Australia, when someone posted an image of their face online after falling over stairs. He clarified that it was out of focus because it was a ‘selfie’, i.e. it was DIY.
As for appearances in social media – photo site Flickr appeared to start the trend in 2004, but it really wasn’t particularly well used until 2012. Instagram now receives over 23 million photos uploaded with the hashtag #selfie. Along with 51 million uploads featuring #me.
The reality is that the smartphone has created this new culture. The forward-facing camera suddenly made it easy for those wanting to snap themselves in dramatic/impressive landscapes at an arms length. We also no longer needed to send our photos off for costly ‘developing’. The closest fix we previously got was via a passport photo booth or a Polaroid, but neither had the ability to share on a wide scale (posting envelopes of reprints aside). Even digital camera photographs need downloading. The instant access to the internet via our smartphone suddenly allowed us to upload images of ourselves, sit back and watch the ‘likes’ pile up whilst we were still in the spot where the picture was taken.
And there are plenty of apps and accessories out there to support you.
SnapChat has been popular for some time. It’s much like a game of selfie ping-pong, one where I am still learning the rules it would seem, judging by the last image of half TV/half floor I accidentally sent in response to an image of my gurning son. Snapchat’s USP is that each image is viewable by the recipient for just a few seconds until it disappears. Or is screen captured.
As mentioned in last week’s photography blog, FrontBack enables a selfie-lover to take photographs at the same time as taking a forward facing image. There is also a timer function allowing the photographer time to position themselves in a wider landscape. Once taken, both ‘front and back’ images are joined together on one photograph.
Some say the increasing use of the ‘selfie’, along with supporting websites and apps, illustrates a self-obsessed or image-obsessed culture. Others feel it is just the evolution of the camera, the enjoyment people gain from documenting their lives in images and, of course the human desire to be liked. However you look at it, the ‘selfie’ is also the new mirror, and that caught on rather well too.
What do you think?
Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.