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A selfie is a type of self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone, and are usually taken in a slightly tilted manner. Selfies are often associated with social networking. In the Korean entertainment industry the word selca (short for "self camera") means photos taken of oneself.[1][2][3] They are often casual, are typically taken either with a camera held at arm's length or in a mirror, and typically include either only the photographer, or the photographer and as many people as can be in focus. Selfies taken that involve multiple people are known as "group selfies". In August 2013 the Guardian produced a film series titled Thinkfluencer[4] exploring selfie exposure in the UK.


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 using a mirror and a Kodak Brownie camera to send to a friend in 1914.

Photographic self-portraits have existed in a less persistent form roughly since the debut of the portable Kodak Brownie box camera in 1900. 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.[5] 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."[6]

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 2002 September 13.

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.[7]


The term "selfie" was discussed by photographer Jim Krause in 2005,[8] 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.[9] According to Losse, improvements in design—especially the front-facing camera copied by the iPhone 4 (2010) from Korean and Japanese mobile phones and mobile photo apps such as Instagram—led to the resurgence of selfies in the early 2010s.[10]

Initially popular with young people, selfies have become popular among adults as well.[11][12] In December 2012, Time magazine noted that selfie was among its the "top 10 buzzwords" of 2012; although selfies had existed for years, it was in 2012 that the term "really hit the big time".[13] 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.[12] A poll commissioned by smartphone and camera maker Samsung found that selfies make of 30% of the photos taken by people aged 18–24.[14]

By 2013, the word "selfie" had become commonplace enough to be monitored for inclusion in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary.[15] 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.[16]


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.[11][12] 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);[17] The lead author of the study suggests that "those who frequently post photographs on Facebook risk damaging real-life relationships."[18] 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.[19]

Gender roles, sexuality, and privacy[edit]

Selfies are particularly popular among girls and young women. 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 "there’s only one way to visibility, and that’s f***ability."[20] 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 (sexting photos) to exact revenge or humiliate their former lovers.[20] Copyright law may be effective in forcing the removal of private selfies from public that were forwarded to another person.[21]

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[22]. This is similar to what has been observed for portraits by professional painters from many different historical periods and styles [23], 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 [24] , 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 modern art[edit]

In 2013 artist Patrick Specchio and the Museum of Modern Art presented an exhibit called Art in Translation: Selfie, The 20/20 Experience, in which viewers use a provided digital camera to take photographs of themselves in a large mirror.[25]


  1. ^ "What are selcas?". Kpopselca. 2013-11-01. Retrieved 2013-11-01. 
  2. ^ "K-Drama Dictionary of Words to "Borrow"". Soompi. 2012-11-23. Retrieved 2013-09-09. 
  3. ^ "Song Hye Kyo Shares a Beautiful "Selca"". DramaFever. 2013-04-04. Retrieved 2013-09-09. 
  4. ^ Guardian - Thinkfluencer - Episode 1
  5. ^ "Beginners Guide To Understanding And Using A Brownie Box Camera". 
  6. ^ "Diaries and Letters - Letters of Grand Duchess Anastasia". 
  7. ^ "Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is...". OxfordWords blog. Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Jim Krause, Photo Idea Index, 2005. page 148.
  9. ^ Horatia Harrod (March 22, 2009), The world's photo Album, Sunday Telegraph, p. 18, retrieved November 20, 2013 
  10. ^ Kate Losse. The Return of the Selfie. The New Yorker. 2013-06-05
  11. ^ a b Adewunmi, Bim (2013-04-02). "The rise and rise of the 'selfie'". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  12. ^ a b c McHugh, Jillian (2013-04-03). "'Selfies' just as much for the insecure as show-offs". Bunbury Mail. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  13. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (4 December 2012). Top 10 Buzzwords - 9 Selfie, Time
  14. ^ Melanie Hall, "Family albums fade as the young put only themselves in picture" Telegraph, 2013-06-13.
  15. ^ Coulthard, Charissa (7 June 2013). "Self-portraits and social media: The rise of the 'selfie'". BBC News online. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  16. ^ "The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is… | OxfordWords blog". 2013-11-18. Retrieved 2013-11-29. 
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Sharing photographs on Facebook could damage relationships, new research shows. News & events, Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh. 2013-08-09.
  19. ^ Hills, Rachel (2013-03-29). "Ugly Is the New Pretty: How Unattractive Selfies Took Over the Internet". New York Magazine. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Murphy, Meghan (2013-04-03). "Putting selfies under a feminist lens". Georgia Straight. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  21. ^ Hartzog, Woodrow (10 May 2013). "How to Fight Revenge Porn". The Atlantic. 
  22. ^ Bruno, N; Bertamini, M. (2013). "Self-Portraits: Smartphones Reveal a Side Bias in Non-Artists". PLOS ONE 8(2). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055141.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  23. ^ McManus, C., C.; Humphrey, N. (1973). "Turning the left cheek". Nature 243: 271–272. doi:10.1038/243271a0.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  24. ^ Bruno, N; Gabriele, V. Tasso, T. & Bertamini, M. (2013). "Selfies reveal systematic deviations from known principles of photographic composition". Art & Perception.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  25. ^ Colburn, June (2013-04-01). "Innovative mirror art gallery from Gallatin alum to be displayed". Washington Square News. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 

External links[edit]

Category:Internet culture Category:Photography Category:Self-portraits Category:Words coined in the 2000s