Selfie

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A girl takes a selfie from a high angle

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 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.

History[edit]

The first known selfie, taken by Robert Cornelius in 1839

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."[1][2]

Early Edwardian woman taking her picture in a mirror roughly 1900
Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia taking one of the first teenage self-portraits

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.[3] 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."[4]

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).[5][6][7] 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.[8]

Popularity[edit]

The term "selfie" was discussed by photographer Jim Krause in 2005,[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

Self-portrait of a female Celebes crested macaque (Macaca nigra) in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, who had picked up a photographer's camera and photographed herself with it

Initially popular with young people, selfies gained wider popularity over time.[12][13] 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".[14] 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.[13] A poll commissioned by smartphone and camera maker Samsung found that selfies make up 30% of the photos taken by people aged 18–24.[15]

By 2013, the word "selfie" had become commonplace enough to be monitored for inclusion in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary.[16] 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.[17]

Selfies have also taken beyond the earth. A space selfie is a selfie that is taken in space. This include selfies taken by astronauts,[18] machines[19] and by an indirect method to have self-portrait photograph on earth retaken in space.[20]

In January 2014, during the Sochi Winter Olympics, a "Selfie Olympics" meme was popular on Twitter, where users took self-portraits in unusual situations.[21] The spread of the meme took place with the usage of the hashtags, #selfiegame, and #selfieolympics.[22]

A selfie orchestrated by 86th Academy Awards host Ellen DeGeneres during the 2 March 2014 broadcast is the most retweeted image ever.[23][24] DeGeneres said she wanted to homage Meryl Streep's record 18 Oscar nominations by setting a new record with her, and invited other Oscar celebrities to join them. The resulting photo of twelve celebrities broke the previous retweet record within forty minutes, and was retweeted over 1.8 million times in the first hour.[25][26][27] 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.[24][25] As of 18 March 2014, it has been retweeted 3,400,395 times.[24] It beat the previous record, 778,801, which was held by Barack Obama, following his victory in the 2012 presidential election.[27][28][29]

In April 2014, the advertising agency iStrategyLabs produced a two-way mirror capable of automatically posting selfies to Twitter, using facial recognition software.[30]

Sociology[edit]

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.[12][13] 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);[31] The lead author of the study suggests that "those who frequently post photographs on Facebook risk damaging real-life relationships."[32] 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.[33]

Gender roles, sexuality, and privacy[edit]

Former South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and footballer Ji So Yun

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.[34] 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.[34] 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.[35] Copyright law may be effective in forcing the removal of private selfies from public that were forwarded to another person.[36]

News blog Jezebel criticized selfies as being the opposite of empowering.[37] The article published continued to state how selfies are a reflection of how women are represented and the most important quality is their physical attractiveness.[38] Author Erin Gloria Ryan continued to say selfies are mostly used for social media, in an environment where people are encouraged to “like” them and respond to them.[39] The Jezebel article drew much attention with the media, including a piece by writer Maria Guido defending selfies, saying it is acceptable to take and enjoy pictures of yourself since society and advertising is constantly condemning women to that in which they are not “good enough, pretty enough, [and] skinny enough”.[40] 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.[40]

Celebrity selfies[edit]

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.[41] 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.[42] 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.[42] 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.[42] A texting conversation might fall short of communicating how you are feeling, but a selfie might make everything clear in an instant.[42] Selfies are tools of communication more than marks of vanity (but yes, they can be a little vain)”.[42]

Politician selfies[edit]

David Ortiz takes a selfie with US President Barack Obama at the White House

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.[43] The decision to take the selfies was considered to be in poor taste, as British political columnist Iain Martin critiqued the behaviour as behaving like idiots, as they were “clowning around like Muppets”.[43] The photos also depict the First Lady Michelle Obama sitting next to them looking “furious and mortified”.[43] 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”.[44]

In March 2014, British Prime Minister David Cameron was mocked as he posted a selfie of himself on the telephone, to show his Twitter followers his “direct line to the White House” over the situation in Ukraine.[45] The tweet went viral, with the text "I've been speaking to @BarackObama about the situation in Ukraine. We are united in condemnation of Russia's actions".[45] Soon various celebrities mocked the photo including comedian Rob Delaney pretending his toothpaste was a phone, and actor Sir Patrick Stewart holding a container of Wet Wipes to his ear.[45]

Funeral selfies[edit]

The Tumblr blog "Selfies At Funerals", posting photos of selfies taken at funerals, mostly in bathrooms, was used as an example of millennials being self-centered.[46][47] After Obama's selfie at Nelson Mandela's memorial service, the site announced it would shut down: "Obama has taken a funeral selfie, so our work here is done."[47]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In August 2013 the Guardian produced a film series titled Thinkfluencer[48] 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 charties for Women to take selfies without makeup[49]

Psychology and neuroscience[edit]

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.[50] This is similar to what has been observed for portraits by professional painters from many different historical periods and styles,[51] 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,[52] 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.[53] The same month brought several scholarly publications linking excessive selfie posting with body dysmorphic disorder.[citation needed]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Robert Cornelius, self-portrait; believed to be the earliest extant American portrait photo". Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. Library of Congress. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "Beginners Guide To Understanding And Using A Brownie Box Camera". 
  4. ^ "Diaries and Letters – Letters of Grand Duchess Anastasia". 
  5. ^ "bogon.8m.com SelfPix". Archived from the original on 13 April 2004. 
  6. ^ "bogon.8m.com Out & About". Archived from the original on 11 October 2001. 
  7. ^ "bogon.8m.com Bogons". Archived from the original on 28 September 2001. 
  8. ^ "Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is...". OxfordWords blog. Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  9. ^ Jim Krause, Photo Idea Index, 2005. page 148.
  10. ^ Horatia Harrod (22 March 2009), The world's photo Album, Sunday Telegraph, p. 18, retrieved 20 November 2013 
  11. ^ Kate Losse. The Return of the Selfie. The New Yorker. 5 June 2013
  12. ^ a b Adewunmi, Bim (2 April 2013). "The rise and rise of the 'selfie'". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c McHugh, Jillian (3 April 2013). "'Selfies' just as much for the insecure as show-offs". Bunbury Mail. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  14. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (4 December 2012). Top 10 Buzzwords – 9 Selfie, Time
  15. ^ Melanie Hall, "Family albums fade as the young put only themselves in picture" Telegraph, 13 June 2013.
  16. ^ Coulthard, Charissa (7 June 2013). "Self-portraits and social media: The rise of the 'selfie'". BBC News online. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  17. ^ "The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is… | OxfordWords blog". Blog.oxforddictionaries.com. 18 November 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2013. 
  18. ^ "The 50 Best Space Photos of 2013". AOL Weather. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  19. ^ "Ancient Mars lake may have supported life". Associated Press. 9 December 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  20. ^ Howell, Elizabeth (11 June 2013). "'Space Selfie' Telescope Could Hunt Alien Planets … If It Raises A Cool $2M". Universe Today. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  21. ^ Lingebach, Chris (4 January 2014). "Trending: 2014 Selfie Olympics Take Over Twitter". CBS Washington. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  22. ^ Boboltz, Sara (3 January 2014). "'Selfie Olympics' Are Here To Prove Selfies Will Only Get Crazier in 2014". Huffington Post. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  23. ^ "Selfie at Oscars breaks retweet record". BBC News. 3 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
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  26. ^ Ellen DeGeneres' Selfie at Oscars Sets Retweet Record, Crashes Twitter, pictured: Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyong'o Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong'o and Angelina Jolie.
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  28. ^ "Barack Obama victory tweet most retweeted ever". BBC News. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  29. ^ "Four more years" Barack Obama on Twitter, 6 November 2012.
  30. ^ http://mashable.com/2014/04/10/selfie-mirror/
  31. ^ Houghton, David and Joinson, Adam and Caldwell, Nigel and Marder, Ben (2013) Tagger's delight? Disclosure and liking in Facebook: the effects of sharing photographs amongst multiple known social circles. Discussion Paper. University of Birmingham, Birmingham.
  32. ^ Sharing photographs on Facebook could damage relationships, new research shows. News & events, Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh. 9 August 2013.
  33. ^ Hills, Rachel (29 March 2013). "Ugly Is the New Pretty: How Unattractive Selfies Took Over the Internet". New York Magazine. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  34. ^ a b Murphy, Meghan (3 April 2013). "Putting selfies under a feminist lens". Georgia Straight. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  35. ^ Simmons, Rachel. (20 November 2013) Selfies on Instagram and Facebook are tiny bursts of girl pride. Slate.com. Retrieved on 12 March 2014.
  36. ^ Hartzog, Woodrow (10 May 2013). "How to Fight Revenge Porn". The Atlantic. 
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  38. ^ Ryan, Erin Gloria. "Selfies Aren't Empowering. They're a Cry for Help.". Jezebel. 
  39. ^ Ryan, Erin Gloria. "Selfies Aren't Empowering. They're a Cry Out For Help.". Jezebel. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  40. ^ a b Guido, Maria. "(Updated) Selfies Are Not A Cry For Help, Jezebel – #feministselfie". Mommyish. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  41. ^ Barnett, Emma (19 August 2013) Why sexy girl pictures online are more harmful than lads' mags. Telegraph. Retrieved on 12 March 2014.
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  43. ^ a b c Soltis, Andy. "Michelle not amused by Obama’s memorial selfie". New York Post. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  44. ^ Swann, Elaine. "What's the etiquette of 'selfies' at funerals?". CNN. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
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  46. ^ "Selfies at Funerals". Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  47. ^ a b Fiefer, Jason. "Obama's funeral selfie is a fitting end to my tumblr - Selfies at Funerals". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  48. ^ #Thinkfluencer episode 1: Selfies – video | Technology. theguardian.com. 29 August 2013.
  49. ^ http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/no-makeup-selfie
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  53. ^ http://guardianlv.com/2014/04/selfies-cause-narcissism-mental-illness-addiction-and-suicide/

External links[edit]