The Rise of the Selfie
Narcissistic, or good clean fun? A new cultural phenomenon, or a centuries-old practice that has adapted to modern technology? Whether the rise of the selfie inspires you to roll your eyes or smile in preparation for your next photo, the trend is hard to ignore. The 2013 Oxford English Dictionary named “selfie” the word of the year, and even if you’re embarrassed to admit it, you’ve most likely taken or participated in a selfie or two.
Selfies are most frequently associated with the smartphone, when snapping and sharing high-resolution photographs and videos became remarkably simple. After all, who wants to carry a clunky camera all the time when you can pop out your phone and take the almost-candid shots everyone loves? Although the rise of the smartphone selfie accelerated with the iPhone, the craze actually began much earlier than Apple’s industry-shifting device. Buzz Aldrin reminded the world via Twitter that he took a selfie in space in 1966, and other selfie photographs appeared as early as the 1830s, according to The Guardian.
Nevertheless, the term “selfie” didn’t exist until the 21st century. MySpace introduced the profile picture and the first use of “#selfie” occurred on Flickr in 2004. The iPhone with the front-facing camera didn’t launch until 2010, and it was originally designed to enable video chat services such as Facetime and Skype. But once it did, everyone began snapping and sharing pictures over social media websites such as Facebook. What started as a moderately popular trend exploded, and according to Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet Trends Report, people share about 1.8 billion photos every day.
In the old days, when cameras required film instead of memory and took at least a few days to develop, photographers developed skills slowly. However, the instant nature of smartphone photography yields fast results, and speedy improvement in picture-taking skills. Ask anyone who takes selfies regularly about the best way to shoot and you’ll likely hear several useful tips. The downside of selfie-taking is that the images of today are taken and shared so frequently that photos have taken on a disposable quality. One social media website, Snapchat, devotes itself to sharing and instantly deleting photos.
Selfies in History
The term “selfie” might be associated with the smartphone, but selfies existed long before the camera was invented. Remember the self-portrait? Many of the world’s greatest paintings are self-portraits, and talents such as Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Raphael, Botticelli and Artemisia Gentileschi are just a few of the renowned painters who made themselves the subject of priceless paintings.
Self-portraits appeared as early as the 1400s, when Dutch painter Jan van Eyck created Portrait of a Man in a Turban. During the Renaissance, self-portrait painting became a popular form of artistic expression, and the trend never looked back.
Famous and Unusual Selfies Around the World
Today’s disposable selfies might not have the gravitas of a priceless Van Gogh painting, but there are some examples of selfie-taking that endure as classics. Ellen DeGeneres’s famous selfie that included Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Kevin Spacey, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o is a memorable part of history that will never be forgotten.
Why Do People Take Selfies, and Why Are Selfies Popular?
Self-portraits, no matter the medium, are all about self-image, according to psychologist Dr. Terri Apter. Selfies allow the individual to control the projected image, although not its eventual distribution. The best selfies tell the story the subject wishes to be told, whether one of beauty, humor or a lifestyle milestone. The selfie is meant to increase the status of the subject and invite admiration. It’s also a concerted attempt to manipulate how others perceive the subject.
For example, if you post nothing but workout selfies, others are likely to see you as athletic and fit. If you post party selfies consistently, others may view you as social or fun. Considering that photos with faces are nearly 40 percent more likely to win “likes” on Facebook, it’s no wonder that selfie-takers are anxious to garner approval while controlling their image.
How to Take a Great Selfie
The desire for control leads many individual to practice tricks to make themselves appear more attractive. For example, holding your phone or camera slightly above your head often makes you more photogenic — and the same goes for tilting your face at an angle to the camera. The “duck face” — achieved by pursing the lips ever so slightly — is a famous maneuver. What about if you want to make your selfie not look like a selfie, or at least not as obvious? Try using a selfie stick, which lets you hold your arms at a natural angle to avoid the awkward highlighting of your shoulder and arm in the photo.
If you want to take a selfie like a pro — and you have a great sense of humor — check out the selfie kit from MakersKit. With a selfie stick, funny mustaches and a Bluetooth remote, you’ll be taking self-portraits like a pro in no time.