Journalist, likes people-watching, no-DSLR shutterbug, revels in the absurd and the nutty, loves books, blogs, travel, food, and tries not to be a cantankerous customer.

Sravanthi C

The rising profile of the selfie

| Updated on December 11, 2013

A screen shot of the Selfies at Funerals blog.

The selfie simply refuses to stay out of the news, much like its attention-obsessed practitioners and exponents who find some way to stay in the limelight. No sooner had it become popular in social media discourse, the Oxford English Dictionary declared it word of the year. Less than a month later, none other than US President Barack Obama, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron posed together for a selfie at the late Nelson Mandela's memorial service.

There is outrage, there is distaste, there is support, there is vindication (a tumblr blog called Selfies at Funerals says "Obama has taken a funeral selfie, so our work here is done"), and much interpretation of what Michelle Obama's non-participatory demeanour could mean.

Selfies have been in practice for long but it took the digital age with its stew of smartphones, social networks and a liberal dose of celebrities, and, of course, all of us, for them to come into their own. For a word said to have been first used in 2002 by an inebriated Australian who had hurt himself, taken a picture and put it up on a social network, selfie has come a long way.

OED editors say research suggests its usage has gone up by 17,000 per cent in the last one year and it does seem to be true - I, for one, have not noticed the word before that.

Selfie is today's hip short form for the self-portrait, but I wonder if the latter has the same associations with vanity that the selfie does. Probably the reflection, the scrutiny, the time - weeks, months, years - and the effort that go into a painting, and earlier, the lack of the means to immediately broadcast it, negate or pardon the narcissism that can go with self-portraiture, more an exercise in learning and aesthetic intent.

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Published on December 11, 2013
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