The Selfie Phenomenon

“Duckface,” “Click,” “#selfie”, “Upload,” “Share”… there goes the 30,874 billionth selfie, catapulted into the cyber galaxy of vanity shots that cloud social media in our generation. In an unsurprising, yet somewhat embarrassing form, Oxford, the prestigious source of the English language, has announced that their word of 2013 is nothing more and nothing less than the well-known phenomenon of our day: the selfie. Originally coined in Australia in 2012, the term “selfie” has come to encompass the act of self-snapping a photo and uploading it on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The selfie craze has escalated to such an extent that is virtually impossible to escape; even president Obama is doing it these days! So, how has this trend influencing the way we interact and communicate with people and to that effect, in what circumstances is it considered socially acceptable?

We’ve all taken that self-indulgence snapshot in a party. Hey! you’re looking cute, you’re having a good time and you might want to immortalize the moment in a way that’s quick, fun and most of all, easy to share with the world. There’s no harm in that right? But, as is the case with all things, there’s a time and a place for everything. What is not ok, is, for example, is the new funeral selfie trend seen in tumblr blogs such as Glorifying your face through a close up self-photo when you’re trying to honor the dead? Unacceptable. And then we wonder why our generation is sometimes viewed as vain and egocentric?

To some extent, selfies have also become a way for us to control our self-image. Whether you’re trying to look sexy or taking an intentionally unattractive photo, selfies have become a new tool with which to portray yourself. They are also an easy way to take a picture when there’s no other suitable photographer around. But when does it cross the line from self-expression to blatant narcissism? Although looking back on your ridiculous self-portraits can be amusing, sometimes not every moment needs to be recorded, and to be honest, there are only a certain amount of facial expressions one can make before it becomes repetitive. On that note, sometimes selfies can be seen as cries for attention from people and you shouldn’t use them as a form of self-validation.

Selfeism has also affected how people communicate. Now on top of texting, you can use snapchat to message a photo of your face to your friend, which perfectly captures what you’re doing or how you’re feeling. After all, isn’t a picture worth a thousand words? No need for long phonecalls or extensive emails, just receiving a fleeting image and you already feel connected to the other person. Although selfies and snapchats don’t supplement conversations, they are a fun way to keep in touch with your friends, and reinforce the idea of quick and brief media interaction that is so common nowadays.  

The standardization of the word selfie raises the question of how people of our generation communicate and express themselves in the twenty first century. It also makes me wonder… whats next? Will twerk be the new word of 2014? And if that’s the case, should we be worried?!