The onset of the digital age has brought with it a multitude of historic developments. Faster, more direct communication, an improved ability to respond to emergencies, the connecting of people across vast distances and a greater exchange of information are just a few of the revolutionary changes that have come about in the past 25 years.
However, there are also some technological developments that have taken place in that time that aren’t quite so important. The “selfie” – a photo one takes of oneself, often using a smartphone – is a perfect example of one of those lesser advances that has worked its way into the public psyche. In fact, it has done so to such an extent that it was recently named the word of the year by the Oxford Dictionary.
Here a selfie, there a selfie
The distinction awarded to the selfie by the Oxford Dictionary, which noted that use of the word has increased 17,000 percent over the past year,1 is just the latest example of how the word has become an intrinsic part of modern life. Celebrities take them, politicians take them, everyday people take them. Even the pope takes them.2
From capturing important moments, to taking pictures with loved ones, to documenting a visit to an important monument, to simply grabbing a photo of yourself in the bathroom mirror, selfies have given people in today’s age the opportunity to turn their life into a small documentary.
And with the concurrent expansion of the use of social media around the world, selfies have found outlets where people can share them with one another and show off their most flattering poses to the world (or sometimes their most embarrassing ones).3 It’s gotten to the point that the selfie has become many people’s most-used mode of self-expression.
A reflection on society?
The selfie revolution isn’t just about taking a picture, though. It also reflects (pun intended) on some of the major changes that have taken place in society over the past few decades – namely, the transition to a more individualistic approach to life.
These days, with technology affording the ability to document every aspect of their lives, people have truly become the stars of their own movie. The selfie is just the latest example of a trend that has capitalized on that part of societal evolution.
1 Zak, Dan, “‘Selfie-Reliance: The Word of the Year is the Story of Our Individualism,” The Washington Post, Nov. 19, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/selfie-reliance-the-word-of-the-year-is-the-story-of-our-individualism/2013/11/19/fba53c82-5132-11e3-9fe0-fd2ca728e67c_story.html
2 Alexander, Harriet, “Pope Francis and the First ‘Papal Selfie’,” The Telegraph, Aug. 31, 2013. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/the-pope/10277934/Pope-Francis-and-the-first-Papal-selfie.html
3 Brumfield, Ben, “Selfie Named Word of the Year for 2013,” CNN.com, Nov. 20, 2013. http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/19/living/selfie-word-of-the-year/