When you first hear the word "selfie," what do you think of? Is it a girl with a "duck face" at a party on Facebook, or a guy pointing his iPhone at the mirror to document his recent workout?
Over the past year, the "selfie" has become a well-known term across the globe. The Oxford dictionary added the word "selfie" to their online dictionary this August. Their definition: "A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website."
MySpace was the original mass social network. However, the selfie was first coined on Flickr in 2004. Now everyone's dashboard on every social networking site is filled with photos people took of themselves and their friends. Each refresh of the "Explore" page on Instagram ensures another 50 selfies uploaded within 10 seconds.
Selfie culture, though it may seem appalling to many, has become fairly relevant for today's teenage generation. With the evolution of smartphone cameras, particularly the Samsung Galaxy and IPhone, teens are joined by adults and children in the quest for daily Instagram posts, hourly Facebook updates, and minute-by-minute Snapchats.
Of course, one has to ask, what urges us to take pictures of ourselves to send to our friends or post on a public forum? Is it pure narcissism, or more than that?
I know girls who take daily selfies to post to Instagram. As of October 2013, there have been nearly 40 million posts containing "#selfie" under their tags. Instagram was the birthplace of the selfie, as men and women began posting pictures of not just their surroundings, but themselves.
Personally, I don't put many selfies on my Instagram. However, I do send Snapchats to friends daily. Maybe, I'll admit, hourly.
For my long-distance friends, Snapchatting is actually one of the best forms of communication. It still allows for an intimate friendship, because we can see each other's faces every day, as opposed to just texting or talking. There's something unique about Snapchatting in that way, because it's different than just words flying back and forth. Similar to Instagram, it's images from real life.
Snapchatting is great because it is a face-to-face exchange that doesn't involve the commitment of Skype. I can easily have a "conversation" with someone throughout the day simply by how we send images back and forth.
As far-fetched as it may seem, selfies help strengthen friendships. With goofy faces, they can catch us at our worse and most intimate.
That's my use of selfies. Ever since I got an iPhone last year, it's been easier to take selfies. Nevertheless, I don't think I've ever actually taken a selfie for anything other than Snapchatting.
I recently viewed a video that a man posted on YouTube. He looped a film of his selfies taken in over 150 different cities in 63 countries over only a few months. He documented nearly his entire trip in selfies and quick fifteen second videos to share with the world. In one photo, I could see the Great Wall of China behind his left ear. In another, Angel Falls. This method of keeping a record his journey allowed viewers to connect on a personal level. Who wouldn't take a selfie in front of the Great Pyramids just to prove they were there?
Selfies aren't necessarily some weird craze or a viral trend amongst teenagers. While they may sometimes just be a form of teenage vanity, I believe they are important in the digital age as a form of communication, self-expression and documentation.