The Evolution of Selfies
“The selfie is revolutionising how we gather autobiographical information about ourselves and our friends,” Dr Mariann Hardey, Durham University.
The term selfie (digital self-portrait) has become synonymous with a generation that has grown used to documenting their everyday lives on Social Media.
Not just the trademark of millennials, selfies have been used by all ages and walks of life as a means to document one’s life and update your tribe through an intimate ‘close-up’ that captures the moment, its context and your emotion in an instant self-shuttered snap.
They have essentially become the contemporary, disposable self-portrait.
Although improvements in Smartphone camera quality and particularly front-facing lenses have contributed to the recent explosion of the selfie, the picture type itself has its origins in 1839, when pioneer Robert Cornelius took a picture of himself outside his family’s store in Philadelphia (see below).
Fast forward to the 20th century and experimentation continued in the 1970s with the growth in popularity of the polaroid camera, some of the most famous examples were captured by Andy Warhol as photographers got their first taste of disposable pictures. Film was expensive however and it would take another 3 decades before digital cameras could facilitate truly disposable photography, the spark that would combust the selfie storm.
Who coined the word Selfie??
There has been much debate as to who exactly coined the term but there is a consensus that Australia is at least the country of origin for the 2013 Oxford Dictionary Word of the year. Since then selfie has become part of the public consciousness and is one of the most frequently uploaded pieces of content on Social Media.
In fact, Instagram alone has more that 90 million pieces of content indexed with #me. SnapChat as well has positioned itself as a self reflective social network with a user interface that makes it super easy to record video and photo with filters and special lenses added as features to customise and enrich.
Beyond the advent of the front facing camera, the selfie industry has seen innovation in the form of hand-held monopods (selfie sticks), drones and even Acer’s audacious Sombrero attempt all with the goal of making the selfie easier to capture while affording longer range, wider angle and better quality pictures.
From photographic novelty to the most popular form of photograph among 18-24 year olds We can safely say that the selfie is here to stay certainly in the medium term but are there potential pitfalls to a generation of image capturing, vanity driven Human Beings??
But Wait. Are we really that vain and self-absorbed??
Well, according to recent research, YES. The average person in the UK takes 7 selfies before choosing the 1 that he or she wants to upload with 1 in 5 admitting to changing outfits before snapping a selfie. Some 69% of the 2,500 people surveyed admitted to fixing hair and makeup before capturing that “authentic” moment.
The need to capture that moment of perfection has driven a society to fill wardrobes with fast fashion, visit salons more frequently and even turn to surgery in search of longer lasting and enhanced physical features. Healthcare search engine WhatClinic.com has linked the influence of selfie-obsessed celebrities to the demand for cosmetic treatments. Kim Kardashian’s bloody post-treatment selfie created a worldwide spike in demand for vampire facials. Let’s not forget the ‘butt selfies, or ‘belfies’ that if you believe the hype, have encouraged people to get butt implants, for that perfect full length post-gym mirror shot. And hair just won’t stay put, what with eyebrow transplants to get the super size ‘TOWIE brow’, and for men, paying through the nose to replant healthy hair where it no longer grows via hair and beard transplants.
Vloggers and ‘influencers’, celebs and lifestyle gurus are moving further and further away from what attracted viewers to their feeds in the first place. With specialist lighting, dedicated selfie stations, post production teams heavy handed photoshopping and ambiguous sponsored posting, all of these feeds have lost their most valuable factor: authenticity.
So where does that leave the spontaneous content producers that made Social Media so raw and unfiltered??
We love Gary ‘Vaaaaay-ner-chuk’ here at BlueChief, particularly his off the cuff, timed and opportunistic content. Love him or hate him, Gary’s aggressive, no-nonsense straight talk has seen him gain worldwide recognition and authority. His content is built on authenticity and is rarely hidden behind prepared, filtered or powdered production.
Facebook live, Periscope and Instagram video are all moving towards a new era of raw, unfiltered and live content. Weeding out the pretenders to find the best content can be a challenge, but all it really takes is a discerning ear..
Away from the world of celebrity-driven media, Millennials are connecting with this form of communication, polled on the lead up to US Primaries early last year, Bernie Sanders held an 11 point lead over Hillary Clinton credited in part to his honest assessment of modern America and his unabating attack on US corporations and banks. This refreshing and authentic look at politics saw him push hard for the Democratic nomination but ultimately fall short not before winning the hearts and minds of many American voters.
LIVE video has afforded content producers even more opportunity to capture world events raw and uncensored. Recent protests organised after Donald Trump’s string of executive orders show just how close content producers can get to the action and engagement and viewership shows just how much people want this real-time raw footage.
The evolution of selfies has been fascinating to observe over time and although there may very well be larger underlying societal issues, there is nothing quite so satisfying than capturing one of lifes big moments with the most important people in your life.
Just keep it authentic and for Goodness Sake, easy on the makeup and costume changes… Jeez… 😉