A selfie is a photographic self-portrait taken with a handheld gadget. That’s how the Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun – its official word of 2013. Aboveboard, it’s a term to describe how people exploit the digital age to show their narcissistic proclivities.
“Selfie” bested other neologies, including “twerk” and “binge-watch,” as the official word of the year. Although the word sounds transitory, it embraces the natural tendency for vanity and self-love. But how did this ostensibly ephemeral word land on the OED blog site anyway? And how did a penchant leaning toward narcissism, and whose main advocates are the Kardashian family, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber, make a big leap toward perpetuity?
The selfie became the latest craze when the small screens of mobile devices landed in our hands and transformed into mirrors. In 2010, Apple added a front-facing camera to the iPhone 4 for video-calling apps such as FaceTime. Driven by the smartphone’s popularity, the front camera gave people more control on how to capture their own photos. And it was more intuitive than the back-facing or standalone cameras.
No wonder why celebrities are hooked to it. By posting selfies online regularly, they can tweak their self-portraits the way they want, not the tacky or flimsy shots cherished by the paparazzi. And social media paved the way for everyone to be like them, as quasi-celebrities. The perfect selfie not only relies on flattery and egotistic pomposity, but it also needs a deliberately molded familiarity – or a wry malaise.
The Anxiety for Digital Existence
There is more to selfies than self-blandishing and pseudo acting. The intuitive immediate awareness is also vital. Digital services empower you to change or reanimate each facet of your being, including your name, gender, and ethnicity. The free fake identity doesn’t come from personality or profession, but from the prevailing train of thoughts and actions. If you don’t tweet or upload a photo, you don’t exist.
Though selfies wreak self-absorbed photos, narcissism is the effect – not the cause. How do you think Miley Cyrus’s “twerking” become a big story? In dire need for attention, the young singer-actress dances to pop music provocatively, thrusting her hips to make explicit sexual movements. We increasingly get more and more anxious of our digital existence with every passing day.
The Wrong Imprints of Selfies
People don’t always get it right when using the word “selfie.” A photo of U.S. President Obama, U.K Prime Minister David Cameron, and the Prime Minister of Denmark, at the Nelson Mandela memorial ceremony in Johannesburg, was deviously called a selfie. Only it wasn’t. And Obama isn’t a “selfie president.” A New York Post columnist wrote that the event “symbolizes the global calamity of Western decline.”
“Selfie” has been used for any self-portrait in documents, records, and passports. But it undermines the real meaning of the word. It describes only those photos that are shown on social media sites such as Instagram, and these pictures often come in cunningly washed-out effects to remove blemishes and other flaws.
For a new vogue, selfies freed a gush of self-importance and pomposity. It emanates an aura of narcissism wherever it’s tagged on. The “self” of “selfie” may be from “self-portrait,” but when separated, it fluctuates between good and bad connotations, contingent on the next word.
The Selfie Syndrome
Young adults do selfies in various ways and for several reasons, but it’s not far from grown-ups bringing self-portraits to the attention of their friends and followers on social media.
To best describe how social media is making us narcissistic through selfies, here’s an infographic from BestComputerScienceSchools.net, developed by NowSourcing.