Who would have thought, ten years ago, that a throwaway comment by an Australian kid on ABC Online would become the Oxford English Dictionary word of the year for 2013?
Well, it turns out the selfie has become one of the most consistent – and controversial – forms of self-expression in contemporary life. Widely acknowledged as a self-portrait photograph, taken by holding the camera at arm’s length, and usually using the camera on a cell phone, the selfie has given rise to debate about self-esteem and body issues, the proliferation of ‘duckface’ and a whole section of a famous soap company’s campaign for real beauty.
The power of a themed selfie (and accompanying hashtag) can be seen in the #somostodosmacacos (#weareallmonkeys) images. They are selfies with bananas, uploaded to various social networks, as a show of solidarity for Brazilian football player Dani Alves, of FC Barcelona. The trend was kicked off by Alves’ teammate, after a racist fan threw a banana onto the field during a game.
However, while the ‘selfie for a cause’ may have an obvious purpose, it is only a tiny fraction of the selfies that appear in our social media newsfeeds every day.
So why do we love the selfie so much?
Perhaps the question should be, ‘Why do we love to hate selfies so much?’ When Adobo Chronicles shared their 1 April ‘news’ story of the American Medical Association recognising the new mental disorder – selfitis – the story went viral. Long before anyone thought of checking the date stamp. Forbes contributors David Sturt and Tod Nordstrom think the speed with which Adobo’s hoax spread is a clear indicator of how we can get better results, at home and work.
They suggest that it is all about appreciation. ‘The cultural phenomenon of the ‘Selfie’ exposes a very basic human desire—to feel noticed, appreciated and recognized,’ they say. ‘Love ‘Selfies’ or hate them, this viral hoax gives us all insights that we can use. It reveals that A) there is a human desire to be recognized and appreciated, and B) we shouldn’t make those people closest to us ask for it.’
So, the next time you wonder why someone you love or work with insists on uploading a new photo of themself every day, think twice before you just get annoyed. Take a minute to think of a way to show them how much you appreciate them. You’ll probably make their day.