It’s A Selfie World!

Play that title in your head to the tune of ‘Barbie Girl‘ (sorry about that). We are living in a selfie world, where photographs go from crude to downright rude, and often have as much substance as a Barbie girl (that was almost poetry, rhyme, or maybe not). Now selfies aren’t necessarily a new invention, depending on your definition and the circumstances. Some suggest that self-portraits (as in the photography sense) are the same as selfies and therefore any early self-portrait can be classed as a ‘selfie’ and so nothing is new. I’m not really sure that such an interpretation applies, as I think there’s a lot more differentiating self-portraits, especially ones from yesteryear, and the selfies of today’s culture.

Five photographers posing together for a photograph on the roof of Marceau's Studio, while Joseph Byron holds one side of the camera with his right hand and Ben Falk holds the other side with his left hand.

Some suggest this is the world’s first selfie by Byron Company Photographers taken in 1920 (it took two to hold the camera) – (source: Museum of the City of New York)

I must admit that I’m not really into selfies. Selfies seem to suggest vanity more than anything else and I think we have enough of that in today’s world; it’s all about look at me doing this, look at me here, look at me eating this, look at me just because you must. It simply gives the impression of something temporary and often of no intrinsic value. Self-portraits, in the traditional sense, have tended to be of a more reflective style of self-expression, perhaps even introspective, and attempt to capture something meaningful and lasting. Portraits were, in the main, about others seeing you as you are and capturing that image, or purposefully creating an image of you whether real or imagined. Even a monkey can take a selfie (and a better one at that).

Monkey Selfie - (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Monkey Selfie – (source: Wikimedia Commons)

The other aspect about selfies is that they all too often seem to be a repeated pattern of someone standing in front of a mirror, in a dishevelled bathroom, trying to look outstanding or the like. Or it’s outside with similar disregard, in most cases, to what’s in the background; afterall, that’s not important. Then there is also the outstretched arm/s appearing in every photo, as an eternal reminder that this was a spontaneous photograph showing the true self of the individual/s in the selfie. And it goes without saying that most are poorly focussed and of low quality. I think it works with animals, but humans should be capable of being more inventive.

Selfies - (source: Fun Cage)

Selfies – (source: Fun Cage)

Selfies - (source: Fun Cage)

Selfies – (source: Fun Cage)

But that potential inventiveness is also being slowly eroded, as it’s not only the mobile phone manufacturers that are making the task of taking selfies easier, but camera manufacturers are now also entering the fray, making almost dedicated selfie cameras, in order to cash in on the selfie fad. I really wonder whether these will, in any way, be successful; however, the selfie is becoming so ingrained that I further wonder if traditional photography, such as portraiture, is going the way of film. Fewer and fewer people seem to care about quality, style and detail.

Selfie Camera - (source: Samsung)

Selfie Camera – (source: Samsung)

Selfie Camera - (source: Olympus)

Selfie Camera – (source: Olympus)

But do selfies really reflect and portray the individual, and their true self and character, or does it actually take more thought and planning, such as with self-portraits or formal portraits to visualise and discover the real you? If selfies simply represent instant gratification, is everything just a façade and discovering who you are becomes a guessing game? Then again, maybe selfies do reveal one’s true self, in much greater detail and more revealingly than what an observer would capture. There’s no doubt that selfies have gotten people into more trouble and have the potential to be dangerous, and may even reflect other issues, than any form of photography in the past.

Inappropriate Selfies - (source: Viralnova)

Inappropriate Selfies – (source: Viralnova)

Sadly, I haven’t seen many ‘traditional’ examples of portraiture of ordinary people, by ordinary people, for a very long time; traditional in the sense that they are taken by someone else and either posed or spontaneous, of reasonably high quality, and involving a modicum of effort and/or planning. Again, I’m most likely somewhat old-fashioned, as I prefer to be involved in the taking of traditional style photographs (being behind the camera, not in front) and producing images that will hopefully be longer lasting than selfies, which disappear in their millions (billions?) on Facebook, Twitter and the like, or are lost forever when that mobile phone is misplaced, stolen or damaged in some way. That said, there are still those around that try to keep these old-fashioned ideas alive and, who knows, maybe they will come back into fashion again one day.

A smile in passing - beautiful girl

A smile in passing

Beautiful contemplation - beautiful girl

Beautiful contemplation

And some photographs you simply can’t get with a selfie.

All partied out

All partied out

But then again, maybe the selfie fad will go on for some time:

Meanwhile, in London, the National Portrait Gallery has just put out a call for selfies to be included in a panel discussion on January 16 entitled “The Curated Ego: What Makes a Good Selfie?”

In announcing the event, organisers identified Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia as “one of the first teenagers to take a selfie.” That was in 1914, when she was 13. Alas, she had no Facebook or Twitter account to share it on.


I couldn’t resist posting this:


How times change (source: Google Images)

Or this (seriously good by comparison): best selfies ever.

Update 1: Apparently this is the world’s first selfie. In 1839, photography pioneer Robert Cornelius made the first ever selfie.

First Selfie - (source: Library of Congress)

First Selfie – (source: Library of Congress)

Update 2. I suppose the Darwin Awards will never run out of contestants: More people have died from selfies than shark attacks this year.

Update 3. I just had to include this one as it really says it all when it comes to selfies.

Update 4. I came across this photo while browsing the internet and it’s possibly the worst example of a selfie background that I’ve seen. The internet is full of girls taking selfies before they are about to go out for the night, because they look so hot, and all too often the background looks like a bomb had hit. This one eclipses all the others and should go in a hall of fame (or infamy):

A one track mind? - (source: Unknown, most likely Facebook)

A one track mind? – (source: Unknown, most likely Facebook)

Update 5. The evidence is in; stop taking selfies; no one likes them:

‘…people taking many selfies themselves tend not to like viewing others’ selfie-pictures…according to our results, the majority of participants sees the most obvious consequences of selfies on the negative side, i.e., threat to self-esteem and creating an illusionary world. Own selfies were rated as more self-ironic and thought of as more authentic than those of others.’

Update 6. Obsessive selfie-taking is now a mental disorder called ‘selfitis’:

A group from Nottingham Trent University and Thiagarajar School of Management recently confirmed that selfitis is an actual mental behavior that leads to obsessive selfie-taking, publishing a research report on its findings in the International Journal of Mental Health Addiction.

Update 6. The data is now in and selfies cause more deaths than shark attacks, ‘Selfies Have Led to 259+ Deaths Since 2011‘. More candidates for the Darwin Awards:

It has been widely reported that selfies cause more deaths these days than shark attacks. Now a new study has provided new facts and figures on how at least 259 people have lost their lives while trying to capture smartphone self-portraits since 2011.

Of these ‘selficides,’ as the researchers call them, 72.5% of them were men and 27.5% were women. The median age was 22.94 years — 50% of the victims were 20-29 years old, and 36% of them were 10-19 years old.

2 thoughts on “It’s A Selfie World!

  1. Wolfie

    Hmm -wonder if this may lead to renaming the shutter delay setting to “selfie-timer” ? :))

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