I’ll be the first to admit that in a few moments of weakness I have succumbed and taken a selfie. (Please don’t think any less of me.) I’m sure most, if not all of you have as well, it’s something that a lot of us have just taken on as part of our everyday, even for me someone who doesn’t post on social media very often (helpful if you’re a BCM student…not) and I’s also a bit camera shy, the amount of selfies I get dragged into by my friends could fill a photo album.
When I think of the word selfie I would be lying if my mind didn’t immediately go to teenage girls making duck faces in front of the mirror, trying to get gratification from the hundreds of followers they have on Instagram. What I’m discovering this week as I take a closer look at the selfie though, is that, that image is probably a caricature at best of your average selfie taker.
So where do we start when looking at the selfie?
Well I find the beginning is always the best, but where is that?
Well we could argue that the first selfie was by Parmigianino back in 1523 when he created Self-Portrait In A Convex Mirror, but when we think of selfies I think we think of cameras, so that would take us to Robert Cornelius in 1839, who had to first put the film in the camera and remove the lens cap then sit back and remain perfectly still for one minute. That was just to take the picture; he then had to process the film. The earliest use of the term selfie though was in 2002, and I would argue that is when the selfie as we know it came to be. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that it was an Australian to first use the phrase; we have a bit habit of shortening words.
On 13 September, at 2:55 pm, Nathan Hope (Hopey) went onto an online forum to ask about the dissolvable stitches that were in his lower lip. They were dry and uncomfortable. After a bit of chat back and forth, the account user known as ‘My Evil Twin, Beryl’ asked him how he came to get these stitches, and at 3.19pm, he typed in reply:
“Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped over and landed lip first on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip.”
He then posted a ‘self-photograph’ showing the stitches in his lower lip.
And then he continued writing, and posted, the very first written use of the word ‘selfie’,
“And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”
From this humble, and slightly humours beginning, the selfie has now become a global phenomenon, with people all around the world sharing there selfie’s. I’m sure most of you have heard at least one news story about how selfies are ‘evil’, if you do a quick google search you can find dozens of articles about how selfies are a sign of narcissism, or people are all becoming addicted to selfies, or even that selfies can give you wrinkles.
There seems to be a lot of fear being pushed on us about selfies, and the really sad thing is that like a lot of what the media sells us the fear is unwarranted. Take for instance the stories of selfie addiction.
Martin Robbins, a science and culture journalist argues, that individual cases of selfie use and abuse “being reported by private doctors who make money from treating the conditions they describe” quickly turn into indictments of culture at large.
As for if selfies are a sign of narcissism, I would say further research needs to be done. As far as I can find the closest any research has come to showing that it does is in a 2015 polish study, that looked at 1296 men and women, and showed that there was some correlation between being narcissistic and posting a larger amount of selfies in the men that were part of the research. Another study done at Ohio State in 2015 though, showed there was no such link.
Thanks for reading, let me know your thoughts down in the comments.