The selfie era.

If your phone has a front facing lens, then I’m going to assume that you have (at least once) tapped the switch camera icon, pouted/smiled/pulled a ridiculously silly face, for a duration of two to three seconds, and – snap! Ladies and gentlemen; you’ve caught the selfie bug. Don’t be alarmed; you’re definitely not alone. The pandemic is spreading and even the Queen is getting in on the action!

I wonder if any of you noticed when watching the Common Wealth Games 2014 that at practically every lap of honour, athletes posed for numerous selfies with the crowd. (In one rather hilarious instance, a young boy was too busy fiddling with his camera phone, getting ready for a selfie, that he didn’t realise the medalist was actually signing his autograph book. His face was definitely a picture when he recognized the signature and saw the star athlete walk away.)

Although the term has been floating around for over a decade, Oxford Dictionaries had good reason for voting Selfie as their Word of the Year in 2013. Who knows how long this fad will last. Will we still be taking them aged 75? Although that’s no joke, I’ve caught my grandparents taking selfies recently!

The selfie has certainly snapped its way to leaving an indelible mark on society; it’s left sociologists and columnists searching for an explanation. As with every phenomenon, society is left with the questions: What? How? Why?

The What? question is easily solved: A selfie is “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”.

The How? question, tracking the progress and development of the selfie, requires an in-depth look at the evolution of technology and, more pressingly, how fads spread like wildfire on social media.

It’s in fact the Why? question that is most interesting. Why do we take selfies? Let me offer a few possible explanations:

  •  A means of communication

Generally selfies are for sharing! Apps like Snapchat require users to communicate with friends incessantly through pictures and usually the preferred medium is that of the famed selfie. Amongst the 11 top tips for taking the perfect selfie, an online lifestyle article encourages snappers to take several photos, in order to secure the perfect “next profile or Instagram pic”. The selfie is therefore a platform to express yourself and connect with all your cyber buddies.

  •  A keepsake

An interesting article in the Guardian last year presented this viewpoint; “People think if you take pictures of yourself, you’re self-obsessed but that’s like saying if you write a diary or an autobiography, you’re self-obsessed.” This quote is more about dispelling the claim that selfies are narcissistic, yet the comparison of a diary is a valid point in itself.

Since the invention of the camera, people have been capturing pixelated moments to look back on. Everyone loves a trip down memory lane and a photograph is a perfect aid. Could the selfie possibly be a form of journaling in this technological age? Just imagine that futuristic historians will no longer have to trawl through documents of illegible handwriting but instead study Facebook albums jam-packed with selfies.

  • Vanity?

That same Guardian article stressed the counter argument that, “To some, the selfie has become the ultimate symbol of the narcissistic age.” The selfie age seems to demonstrate that humans are utterly obsessed with how they look and how others see them.

I’m not one to judge and I’ve taken and sent my fair share of pictures of my face… Besides, the selfie has been used for the greater good on a number of occasions, including heightening Breast Cancer Awareness and campaigning to raise millions to support similar charities.

But (I bet you saw that coming…) whilst you know what a selfie is and probably couldn’t care less about how it progressed to world trend status, if you are selfie-obsessed, just think why before you click the shutter button.

Share your thoughts in a comment or tweet @ShoutOutUK with the hash tag ♯Selfieobsessed.

(I toyed with the tag, ♯Selfieaware, but thought it sounded too much like an alcohol campaign…)