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July 25, 2014

Saga of A ‘Selfie’

Text by Neha Gupta

Now that the Oxford Dictionary has certified ‘selfie’ as a word, Verve dives into the rise of and addiction to this verb

It is believed that a drunk Aussie coined this term in 2002 when he posted his self-taken photo on a forum, calling it a ‘selfie’. The word took the fancy of the world and, in 2013, the Oxford dictionary finally declared ‘selfie’ as the international word of the year: selfie noun, informal
(also selfy; plural selfies): a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website

Then with the one she clicked at the Oscars (2014), talk show host and comedian Ellen Degeneres took selfies to another level altogether. It’s not like she invented group selfies, but when you stuff in that many celebrity faces in one candid frame, it’s a rage that garners a million hits. Now with emulations galore, of course, those anonymous people who invent Internet slangs, have given such self-taken photos with more than one person in it, a terminology of its own: ussie. (More on the Ussie? Read here)

THE HISTORY OF IT ALL
Many will argue that selfies or ussies are created only when holding the camera yourself while essaying a digital self-portrait. Technically, this understanding is wrong in entirety. The whole idea is to get a self-portrait without external help. Now if we think back to the ’80s, before digital cameras were popular, it is safe to state that ample ‘ussies’ were taken with those ‘advanced’ camera models. Some came with a timer that allowed us just enough seconds to squeeze the group into the frame and pose. That, in actuality, marked the rise of ‘ussies’.

Then again, don’t for a minute let the mind be fooled into believing that a selfie is the brainchild of the decades. In fact, it was in 1839 when the first selfie was created. An American amateur chemist Robert Cornelius, one of those early photography enthusiasts, had set up a camera in the backroom of his family’s store. The way cameras were constructed then, he had enough time to remove the lens, walk into position, pose, and then put the lens back on. ‘The first light picture ever taken. 1839,’ he scribbled on the back. The next century saw Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia take the first teenage selfie in 1914. It was for a pen pal and in the letter, she wrote, ‘I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling.’

AN ATTENTION GRABBING HABIT
Of course, the digital age has allowed us the luxury of retakes, and, may I add, a vulgar number of them seem to engage in it. To call it a photographic log of one’s whereabouts would only be an understatement. When on holiday, trying to grab the landscape, people insist on sticking their heads into the frame, blocking part of that fabulous nature with a silly grin and a distorted angle. We believe you, you were there – don’t go spoiling scenic shots like that.

Till Twitter, Facebook and Instagram came into play, the degree to which people look to gloat about their ‘interestingly fun’ lives is a deafening call for attention and acceptance. Even our Prime Minister thought it best to tweet his ‘inked selfie’ on voting day, just in case we forgot he would be voting as well, and then applaud him for it. British Prime Minister David Cameron got enough flak for tweeting his phone-selfie with a, ‘I’ve been speaking to @BarakObama about the situation in Ukraine. We are united in condemnation of Russia’s actions.’ Comedians couldn’t stop themselves from aping the pose with toothpaste tubes and wet-wipes as substitutes for a phone.

CROSSING THE LINE
The ability to take a selfie, while it may be entertaining, seems to have put our talent to think in a nebulous bubble. That said, do we really understand boundaries? Funeral-selfies are a thing now. People deem it alright to attend a funeral, click themselves (thankfully not with the body) and post about it with a trailing ‘R.I.P’ somewhere between the hashtags. There is a pre-funeral selfie, at-funeral selfie and post-funeral selfie. Pick which one suits you best, the ‘I-care-enough-to-buy-a-new-dress-and-have-my-make-up-intact’ look or the ‘I-care-enough-to-buy-a-new-dress-and-cared-more-to -smudge-my-make-up-with-tears’ look.

If this isn’t enough, there is the duck-face selfie (puckered lips), hospital selfie, pet selfie (pet with clicker), gym selfie (more common from the well-toned), pregnant selfie (a craze amongst excited mummies-to-be), just-woke-up-selfie (when in bed), and the list is endless. Believe it or not, couples even manage to sneak an ussie in the midst of an intimate kiss. No, it’s not cute. If someone wanted to watch porn, they would turn to the Internet for the whole package.

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