A selfie is a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone. Selfies are often shared on social networking services such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr. They are often casual, and are typically taken either with a camera held at arm's length or in a mirror.
Robert Cornelius, an American pioneer in photography, produced a daguerreotype of himself in 1839 which is also one of the first photographs of a person. Because the process was slow he was able to uncover the lens, run into shot for a minute or more, and then replace the lens cap. He recorded on the back "The first light Picture ever taken. 1839."
The debut of the portable Kodak Brownie box camera in 1900 led to photographic self-portraiture becoming a more widespread technique. The method was usually by mirror and stabilizing the camera either on a nearby object or on a tripod while framing via a viewfinder at the top of the box. Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna at the age of 13 was one of the first teenagers to take her own picture using a mirror to send to a friend in 1914. In the letter that accompanied the photograph, she wrote, "I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling."
The concept of uploading group self-taken photographs (now known as super selfies) to the internet, although with a disposable camera not a smartphone, dates to a webpage created by Australians in September 2001, including photos taken in the late 1990s (captured by the Internet Archive in April 2004). The earliest usage of the word selfie can be traced as far back as 2002. It first appeared in an Australian internet forum (ABC Online) on 13 September 2002.
Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.
The term "selfie" was discussed by photographer Jim Krause in 2005, although photos in the selfie genre predate the widespread use of the term. In the early 2000s, before Facebook became the dominant online social network, self-taken photographs were particularly common on MySpace. However, writer Kate Losse recounts that between 2006 and 2009 (when Facebook became more popular than MySpace), the "MySpace pic" (typically "an amateurish, flash-blinded self-portrait, often taken in front of a bathroom mirror") became an indication of bad taste for users of the newer Facebook social network. Early Facebook portraits, in contrast, were usually well-focused and more formal, taken by others from distance. In 2009 in the image hosting and video hosting website Flickr, Flickr users used 'selfies' to describe seemingly endless self-portraits posted by teenage girls. According to Losse, improvements in design—especially the front-facing camera copied by the iPhone 4 (2010) from Korean and Japanese mobile phones, mobile photo apps such as Instagram, and selfie sites such as ItisMee—led to the resurgence of selfies in the early 2010s.
Initially popular with young people, selfies gained wider popularity over time. By the end of 2012, Time magazine considered selfie one of the "top 10 buzzwords" of that year; although selfies had existed long before, it was in 2012 that the term "really hit the big time". According to a 2013 survey, two-thirds of Australian women age 18–35 take selfies—the most common purpose for which is posting on Facebook. A poll commissioned by smartphone and camera maker Samsung found that selfies make up 30% of the photos taken by people aged 18–24.
By 2013, the word "selfie" had become commonplace enough to be monitored for inclusion in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary. In November 2013, the word "selfie" was announced as being the "word of the year" by the Oxford English Dictionary, which gave the word itself an Australian origin.
Selfies have also taken beyond the earth. A space selfie is a selfie that is taken in space. This include selfies taken by astronauts, machines and by an indirect method to have self-portrait photograph on earth retaken in space.
In January 2014, during the Sochi Winter Olympics, a "Selfie Olympics" meme was popular on Twitter, where users took self-portraits in unusual situations. The spread of the meme took place with the usage of the hashtags, #selfiegame, and #selfieolympics.
In April 2014, the advertising agency iStrategyLabs produced a two-way mirror capable of automatically posting selfies to Twitter, using facial recognition software.
The appeal of selfies comes from how easy they are to create and share, and the control they give self-photographers over how they present themselves. Many selfies are intended to present a flattering image of the person, especially to friends whom the photographer expects to be supportive. However, a 2013 study of Facebook users found that posting photos of oneself correlates with lower levels of social support from and intimacy with Facebook friends (except for those marked as Close Friends); The lead author of the study suggests that "those who frequently post photographs on Facebook risk damaging real-life relationships." The photo messaging application Snapchat is also largely used to send selfies. Some users of Snapchat choose to send intentionally-unattractive selfies to their friends for comedic purposes.
Posting intentionally unattractive selfies has also become common in the early 2010s—in part for their humor value, but in some cases also to explore issues of body image or as a reaction against the perceived narcissism or over-sexualization of typical selfies.
Gender roles, sexuality, and privacy
Selfies are popular among both genders. Sociologist Ben Agger describes the trend of selfies as "the male gaze gone viral", and sociologist and women's studies professor Gail Dines links it to the rise of porn culture and the idea that sexual attractiveness is the only way in which a woman can make herself visible. Writer Andrew Keen has pointed out that while selfies are often intended to give the photographer control over how their image is presented, posting images publicly or sharing them with others who do so may have the opposite effect—dramatically so in the case of revenge porn, where ex-lovers post sexually explicit photographs or nude selfies to exact revenge or humiliate their former lovers. Nonetheless, some feminists view selfies as a subversive form of self-expression that narrates one’s own view of desirability. In this sense, selfies can be empowering and offer a way of actively asserting agency. Copyright law may be effective in forcing the removal of private selfies from public that were forwarded to another person.
In 2013, author Erin Gloria Ryan, in the blog Jezebel criticized selfies, stating that the images they often portray, as well as the fact that they are usually posted to social media with the intent of getting positive comments and "likes", reinforce the "notion that the most valuable thing [a young woman] has to offer the world is her looks." The Jezebel post provoked commentary, including a blog post by writer Maria Guido defending selfies, saying it is acceptable to take and enjoy pictures of yourself since society and advertising are constantly condemning women to that in which they are not “good enough, pretty enough, [and] skinny enough”. The blog started a hashtag of #feministselfie, which then started a larger group on Flickr called the #365feministselfie, where women aim to post a selfie everyday advocating a new way of approaching individual, and unconventional beauty standards.
Many celebrities – especially sex symbols – post selfies for their followers on social media, and provocative or otherwise interesting celebrity selfies are the subject of regular press coverage. Some commentators, such as Emma Barnett of The Telegraph, have argued that sexy celebrity selfies (and sexy non-celebrity selfies) can be empowering to the selfie-takers but harmful to women in general as they promote viewing women as sex objects. Actor and avid selfie poster James Franco wrote an op-ed for The New York Times defending this frequent use of selfies on his Instagram page. Franco defends the self-portrait stating they should not be seen as an egocentric act, but instead a journalistic moment as it cultivates a “visual culture, the selfie quickly and easily shows, not tells, how you're feeling, where you are, what you're doing”, much like a photojournalist image. Franco continued to write how peoples' social lives are “more electronic, we become more adept at interpreting social media. And, as our social lives become more electronic, we become more adept at interpreting social media. A texting conversation might fall short of communicating how you are feeling, but a selfie might make everything clear in an instant. Selfies are tools of communication more than marks of vanity (but yes, they can be a little vain)”.
A selfie orchestrated by 86th Academy Awards host Ellen DeGeneres during the 2 March 2014 broadcast is the most retweeted image ever. DeGeneres said she wanted to homage Meryl Streep's record 18 Oscar nominations by setting a new record with her, and invited twelve other Oscar celebrities to join them, which included Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Channing Tatum, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong'o, Jared Leto and Jennifer Lawrence. The resulting photo of the celebrities broke the previous retweet record within forty minutes, and was retweeted over 1.8 million times in the first hour. By the end of the ceremony it had been retweeted over 2 million times, less than 24 hours later, it had been retweeted over 2.8 million times. As of 24 June 2014[update], it has been retweeted 3,415,871 times. It beat the previous record, 778,801, which was held by Barack Obama, following his victory in the 2012 presidential election.
President Barack Obama made news headlines during Nelson Mandela's memorial celebration at the Johannesburg's FNB Stadium with various world leaders, as he was snapped taking a selfie and sharing smiles with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and later with British Prime Minister David Cameron, as they gathered to pay tribute to Mandela. The decision to take the selfies was considered to be in poor taste, as British political columnist Iain Martin critiqued the behaviour as “clowning around like muppets”. The photos also depict the First Lady Michelle Obama sitting next to them looking “furious and mortified”. Despite the criticism, Roberto Schmidt, the photographer who captured the photos taken at the celebration, reported to the Today show it was taken at “a jovial, celebratory portion of the service”.
In January 2014, Business Insider published a story referring to such images as "usies". A photograph of Pope Francis with visitors to the Vatican has been called an usie by The Daily Dot, and TMZ has used the term to describe a selfie taken of celebrity couple Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.
The term "groufie" has been trademarked by Chinese phone manufacturer Huawei Technologies in China, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.S. The word was introduced during the launch of its Ascend P7 smartphone in 2014. Huawei defines the groufie as a panoramic selfie involving multiple subjects, as well as background scenery, captured using the front facing, 8-megapixel camera and panorama capabilities of its phones.
In popular culture
- In August 2013, the Guardian produced a film series titled Thinkfluencer exploring selfie exposure in the UK.
- American dance music duo The Chainsmokers released a single #SELFIE in 2014.
- In March 2014, a no-makeup selfie meme was started in the UK in aid of cancer charities for women to take selfies without makeup.
Psychology and neuroscience
According to a study performed by Nicola Bruno and Marco Bertamini at the University of Parma, selfies by non-professional photographers show a slight bias for showing the left cheek of the selfie-taker. This is similar to what has been observed for portraits by professional painters from many different historical periods and styles, indicating that the left cheek bias may be rooted in asymmetries of brain lateralization that are well documented within cognitive neuroscience. In a second study, the same group tested if selfie takers without training in photography spontaneously adhere to widely prescribed rules of photographic composition, such as the rule of thirds. It seems that they do not, suggesting that these rules may be conventional rather than hardwired in the brain's perceptual preferences.
In April 2014, a man diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder recounted spending ten hours a day attempting to take the "right" selfie, attempting suicide after failing to produce what he perceived to be the perfect selfie. The same month brought several scholarly publications linking excessive selfie posting with body dysmorphic disorder.
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