I’m a big fan of the selfie. I’m sixty years of age and have been taking and posting selfies way before the word was honoured by the Oxford Dictionary as 2013 “word of the year.” I have stacks of them out there among that tsunami of selfies swarming around in the heavens.
Just over a century ago, a 13-year-old Russian Princess took a photo of herself taking a photo of herself. The first selfie?
But the revolution that followed soon after made the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna immeasurably more famous than her selfie.
Currently a different revolution is sweeping the planet, involving people taking pictures of themselves. The historic implications of both revolutions however are best left to anthropologists.
Back in the early days of selfies, a caller to my talk-back radio program (a first on the topic) pompously attempted to edify me in selfie protocol after I had posted a three-way selfie.
He was adamant that a “selfie had to be a pic of oneself, taken by oneself.”
Technically he is right. The Oxford team defined the selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” I think I lost him right about when I asked him if the selfie “purists” would allow a selfie being taken by oneself of oneself before a mirror reflecting oneself taking a pic of oneself…
I did also wonder if my seemingly self-appointed selfie aficionado got cranky with the daytime TV diva Ellen DeGeneres when she unleashed a hurricane of flutter on Twitter with her star-studded selfie from the front seats of the Oscars ceremony she was hosting.
Selfies with celebs are all the go, but to get the Head of the Holy See to pose with a bunch of pilgrims for one would have been inconceivable a short time ago. Not wishing to be seen as a Papal party-pooper, the current big cheese of Catholics, Pope Francis, was more than happy to provide his authentic seal to the selfie #hisholiness.
And of course you’ll see plenty of the #potusa attached to selfies.
However, as with all fads worth their salt, including the selfie, The Beatles, yo-yos and planking, it’s never long before someone loudly suggests the fad is fading.
The “death of the selfie” has already been prophesied.
In March this year, famed British celebrity snapper David Bailey sniffily dubbed the selfie an “ephemeral fad” and predicted its demise within six months. The man who has no trouble getting Mick or Kate or Jack to say cheese said:
I didn’t even know what a selfie was until six months ago. I thought it meant masturbation. Although of course it is masturbation of a sort.
Another one for the anthropologists.
While predictions on planking’s swift demise were spot on (the fact that there weren’t too many Presidents, Popes or Russian Princesses playing the “lying down game” might have been a sign), we must not forget The Fab (Four) Fad had a very long run, yo-yos remain popular (somewhere at any given time) and, from my position, at arms-length from my smartphone, the selfie still has a way to go before reaching the end of its selfie shelf life. But don’t trust my judgement – I was one of the very few who predicted planking would eventually become an Olympic sport.
Speaking of the Olympics, there is the often-dangerous game of “extreme selfies” or “selfie Olympics” which involves taking the most extreme selfie possible. Stories abound of people making the ultimate selfie sacrifice, dying while attempting extreme selfies. Sadly, many of these go viral before it becomes clear it’s satirical, which, according to participants and followers, demonstrates the basic principles of the game, namely invoking danger, risk, and extreme actions to take the best possible selfie.
People have reportedly died while taking selfies too.
Two more questions for the anthropologists before we get out of the shallow end of the pop pool.
What do we replace the selfie with when we eventually become bored with it?
And will the designated taker of the selfie become so adept at it that it’s impossible to tell it is a selfie?