Rise of the selfie

By Thaddeus Chatto

If the word “selfie” could sing, I’d imagine it would be singing rap star Drake’s “Started from the Bottom.” 

The word “selfie” in a way has followed the same journey as Drake from the bottom to the top — from an action without a formal title to top dog of the year.  

On Nov. 19, Oxford Dictionaries released their 2013 Word of the Year: “Selfie,” defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” The title goes to a word that has gained much attention and popularity during the past year. 

According to language research conducted by Oxford Dictionaries editors, “the frequency of the word ‘selfie’ in the English language has increased by 17,000 percent since this time last year.” 

Well, holy cow, Batman. How did we get to the point where “selfie” is awarded Oxford’s 2013 Word of the Year? 

Let’s take a look at “selfie’s” journey from not being an actual word to becoming the 2013 Word of the Year. 

The earliest known use of this type of photo was in 2002 on an Australian online forum post. An Australian man was celebrating his mate’s 21st birthday and while intoxicated, took a photo of himself. In the post, he says, “Sorry about the focus, it was a ‘selfie.’” 

Little did he know that he was also the first to ever take a “dreflie” — a drunken “selfie.” 

Personally, I was first exposed to a “selfie” in 2005 when I was in junior high school. I remember girls in my middle school that would take photos of themselves either in the mirror or by pointing the camera down at themselves at an angle. 

That type of photo was very popular during my time on Myspace. And oh boy did every girl, and occasionally guy, have this type of photo as his or her profile picture. 

Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, explained the evolution of the word “selfie” can be attributed to social media sites and smartphones. The growth in technology has helped people to produce and share these types of photos with more ease. 

Most smartphones include a camera on the front with the screen so that people can see how they look while they are taking a “selfie.” 

I can safely say most of us have seen them everywhere from Instagram to Twitter to Facebook. I can see my newsfeed flooded with pictures now. Of course, with the hashtags: #selfiewiththeEiffelTower, #selfieonChristmas and #selfiewiththebestie. 

Snapchat has been glorifying the “selfie” ever since it became available to the hands of smartphone owners around the world. Countless times I have heard of people receiving a “selfie” from a friend with the caption, “Sitting on the toilet!” with their thumb raised high. 

When I first saw the “selfie” in action, I absolutely loathed it. And I especially disliked the people who did it in public. Have you no shame? Are you so narcissistic that you have to take a photo of yourself? And do you have to make that annoying duck face? 

Like, can you not with the duck face? 

But the world, despite my staunch resistance and criticism, has embraced the “selfie,” and this type of photography has exploded around the globe. 

For example, the Obama daughters took a photo together at their father’s second Presidential Inauguration. Astronaut Luca Parmitano tweeted a photo of himself in space. Even the Pope is getting in on it! 

So after pondering on it, maybe “selfies” aren’t as bad as I was making them out to be. These types of photos may not just be used as a way for people to bring out their narcissistic side. Maybe these photos are a way of expressing yourself; it could be a way of saying you are proud of whom you are, and it’s a way to share your beauty with the world. 

I am now proud to say I have my own Instagram account, and if you were to find me, you would see a few “selfies.” I took some while I was abroad with the background of many different sculptors and buildings across Europe. It was my way of telling people where I was while also showing that I was there. 

I was too soon to judge “selfies” and the people that took them. But, just like most people, they deserve forgiveness, understanding and most importantly, a second chance. 

Although I have embraced it, excessive “selfie” taking is still incredibly annoying to me.   

But I can’t deny the impact these particular photos have had on the world. In the words of Drake, they started from the bottom but now are here. 

And, it also seems as if my feelings toward “selfies” started at the bottom but now it’s here — with joy and acceptance.

Thaddeus is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Thaddingham.