“Selfie” was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year, inspired many things

By Meg Kraft and By Meg Kraft

2014 was the year of the selfie.

The popular phenomenon, explained by the Oxford Dictionary as a documented photo of oneself shared via social media, has undoubtedly gone viral.

“Selfie” was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year, as well as one of Twitter’s top trends of 2014, according to CNN.

Selfies have inspired iPhone apps [such as Snapchat], books like Kim Kardashian’s upcoming release, Selfish, and even popular club tracks; The Chainsmoker’s successful single, “#SELFIE,” is one of Spotify’s most shared songs.

Department of Popular Culture lecturer Matt Donahue said the advance in technology is the reason the act of photographing oneself has become so popular.

“It really is new technology that allowed for this to happen,” Donahue said. “Back in the day, when point and shoot cameras [were] used to take pictures, people used to take selfies … It just wasn’t as convenient as today. Now with advent of smart phones, people can take these pictures all the time.”

An information graphic on selfies, by Infographics.com, says that over one million selfies are taken each day.

The research says that 50 percent of men and 52 percent of women have taken a selfie, and Facebook is the most popular platform for posting them.

Why has photographing oneself and sharing the image become so popular?

Journalism professor Itay Gabay said the appeal in posting selfies is a sense of power.

“In a world characterized by overflow of information, the power to attract viewers amid the sea of distractions is power indeed. Good selfies are likely to receive a lot of attention,” he said.

Gabay credits the need for external affirmation and control as other appealing aspects.

“You have no control on what others say about you and you have no control [of] the way others take pictures of you,” Gabay said. “You gain control when you take a selfie. You might take a lot of selfies, but you will only post the one you like.”

Gabay said that posting selfies has also triggered rising levels of narcissism.

“One of the main problems of digital narcissism is that it puts enormous pressure on people to achieve unfeasible goals,” he said.

Gabay said selfies and social media are positive for networking, but it is equally important to take your eyes off the screen and make real human connections.

Popular culture professor Jeff Brown said selfies are prevalent because they appeal to everyone’s “basic vanity.”

“We can all be like instant celebrities acting like our own paparazzi,” Brown said, “[We] post pictures of ourselves, but only the ones that look good, doing things we want other people to think are cool.”

Brown said that while selfies are trending, documenting too much of anything could ultimately ruin memories.

“I think in moderation [documenting] can add to our lives. In excessive ways, it reduces the specialness of the moment,” he said.

Though the selfie phenomenon has stimulated various areas of pop-culture, Brown said it might be lessening the current generation’s level of communication.

“I do worry about the ‘selfie’ generation being able to develop personal social-interaction skills when there is always a screen in between actual people,” he said. “So much of the world is lost when you are always taking pictures instead of actually experiencing the moment.”

Brown said the selfie trend will continue, as it has become a large part of our culture and a way that people interact.

Gabay’s tips for taking the perfect selfie include natural lighting, keeping your chin down, angling your body and allowing depth between you and the background.

Brown’s tips for taking the perfect selfie include putting your phone down, contemplating whether your action is worth documenting and doing something else instead.

Whether it’s taken at a 45-degree angle or in the reflection of a mirror, filtered, snapped, tweeted or posted to Instagram, the selfie is here to stay — “like” it or not.