Did you know selfies are older than sliced bread?
With talk of a 366-year-old emoticon surfacing, it seemed like a good time to round up other "Internet things" that have been around for a surprisingly long time. It's a bit tricky to pinpoint cultural phenomena to exact dates, but basically, they've been around longer than you think. If you thought Drake invented YOLO or that BuzzFeed created the listicle, then you need to keep reading because EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG.
It is believed that Robert Cornelius took the first selfie ever all the way back in 1839. Apparently, during the early days of photography, selfies were actually popular because it was cheaper for photographers to use themselves as models while practicing shots.
If you believe that paintings can be considered selfies, however, Parmigianino’s "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" (pictured below) may actually be one of the first, as it was painted in 1524 and has many similarities to the contemporary selfie.
As New York Magazine's art critic Jerry Saltz points out, "All the attributes of the selfie are here: the subject’s face from a bizarre angle, the elongated arm, foreshortening, compositional distortion, the close-in intimacy."
2. Animal Stories
Articles about cats are nothing new. The New York Times even published an article in 1928 defending animal stories. The writer, Warren Irvin, posited that "probably the oldest of all stories is the animal story" and explained that "newspapers devote thousands of columns to [animal stories] annually." The story featured a large picture of a cat crossing the street with the caption, "Even a Cat May Hold Up Traffic."
Perhaps these aren't technically "GIFs" since those were created on a computer by Steve Wilhite in 1987, but pre-digital GIFs existed in the 19th century in the form of mechanical optical illusions. The devices used to create these repeating animations had bizarre names like zoetropes, phenakistoscopes and thaumatropes, which are much more fun to say than GIF.
"Back in my day, we had to watch Emma Stone repeatedly make funny facial expressions on the local zoetrope," presumably said someone living 150 years ago.
The phrase "you only live once" apparently first emerged in the 1700s when Samuel Richardson wrote "we live but once in this world." Then, the phrase with the contemporary wording started being used in the 19th century, according to the Head of U.S. Dictionaries at Oxford University Press. Finally, others note that the abbreviation also appeared when Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart named his personal ranch "YOLO." In more popular culture, the YOLO clothing line was started by "The Average Joe" reality contestant Adam Mesh in 2004 and The Strokes had a single called, "You Only Live Once," for which they started a promotional campaign called "Operation YOLO" in 2006.
Image: Boost House
Although it is unknown whether the above picture is of the "very first" listicle (perhaps that honor truly goes to an article published by Moses and written by God), the website TriviaHappy found this article published in 1906 by The New York World, which uses what appears to be a predecessor to Upworthy-style headlines as well. This wasn't just some random paper, either; The World used to be one of the most popular publications in the U.S., and Joseph Pulitzer was its publisher. This was also the paper that pioneered "yellow journalism" and, arguably, clickbait.
Image: Library of Congress
6. Social Media
According to an article published by The Wall Street Journal, "social media" was actually created by ancient Romans, since they had a complex network for sharing updates and gossip using letters. Writer Tom Standage explains "in place of broadband, which makes copying and sending information cheap and quick today, the Romans had scribes and messengers, many of whom were slaves." Specifically we may have Roman philosopher Cicero to thank as the article posits that he "may have invented social media."
Perhaps "The Social Network" should have looked more like this...
Although the above photo hasn't yet been confirmed as authentic, it is rumored to be one of the first photobombs ever captured, depending on your definition of that prank. Obviously, this photobomb would have been very tricky to pull off, since photos used to take a relatively long time to shoot.
Regardless, photobombs have been around for at least the last century and are generally even more funny in black and white. That said, this photobombing stingray is still the greatest photobomber of all time.
All images Getty unless otherwise noted.
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