I take a fair amount of photos of myself using my camera phone. I love taking them. I loved learning how to angle the camera and hold my face to create the most flattering (and hell yes, the most slimming) version of myself, and I am happy to admit I enjoy sharing those photos with the world via social media.
Apparently, I am not alone. This year Britain’s Oxford University Press declared “selfie” to be the word of the year (narrowly beating the word, “twerk”, THANK GOD FOR SMALL FAVORS). According to an article at ABC News, the first recorded use of the word “selfie” was on an Australian forum in 2002, later popping up as a hashtag on Flickr in 2004 (wait, Flickr had hashtags before Twitter? FASCINATING).
Along with the rise of selfies has come the cries of “narcissism!” Lord knows I’ve been accused endlessly of being a narcissist because of my selfie habit (so much so that I now refer to the forward facing camera on my iPhone as the “narcissist setting”), but in reality all humans are narcissists and exploration of self via selfie is just the latest extension of our innate interest in ourselves. (Also, it’s worth noting that selfies aren’t new; artists used mirrors to paint self portraits, and the earliest recorded selfie photo was in 1839).
Psychologist Dr. Pamela Rutledge explores this subject in-depth in Psychology Today earlier this year, and highlights the fact that selfies are actually changing how we all view ourselves, but particularly women.
“For years, people have been concerned about the amount of images of perfect’ women on the Internet. Between profiles pictures and selfies on photo sharing sites, there are many more photos of real’ people images compared to idealized images by thousands. The “ugly selfie” has also emerged in part a response to criticism about narcissism and in part a self-exploration of motive. The push for authenticity has emerged, sometimes through humor as in Reddit’s “Pretty Girls Ugly Faces” meme, where users upload photos of themselves with disgusting faces next to the conventional shot. One artist commented that the ugly selfie challenges her own vanity and puts her personality back into the self-documentation.”
Personally, I not only love taking my own selfies, I really enjoy seeing yours. I love seeing such a range of expressions instead of just the typical staged shot where everyone has careful smiles and stiff bodies. I love seeing the zits, the bad hair days, the broken teeth, the post 5K sweaty faces, the scrunched up noses, and all the various facial expressions that pop up in the various streams on my favorite social media sites. I feel like I get to take part in my friend’s lives more deeply by viewing their selfies.
So rock on, Oxford Press. You picked a great word for 2013.