The Rise of Selfies: Why We Are Obsessed With Sharing Photos of Ourselves

Instagram search results for #selfie.
Instagram search results for #selfie.

Remember back in the good ol’ days when taking “selfies” involved turning your keyboard phone backwards and hoping for the best? How times have changed. Now, selfie-taking is a bonafide art, and the arrival of reversible cameras on smartphones has majorly changed the game. Selfies are ever-present on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (even the most jaded technophobes have probably snapped a few), and they’ve become a simple way for people to share their stories.

Selfies aren’t just for duck-facing tweens anymore — they’re yet another means to document life, and are now a hallmark of social media. (How did President Obama choose to remember Nelson Mandela’s funeral? With a selfie.) However, the rise of selfies actually predates cell phones, computers and even point-and-shoot cameras. A recent article from BBC News traces the first selfies back to the 1880s (when shutters with self-timers were invented), and notes an increased popularity in selfies around the 1940s thanks to Polaroids, which offer instant gratification — much like camera phones.

“The Polaroid’s big plus was that you didn’t have to take a film to be developed,” Royal Photographic Society director Dr. Michael Pritchard tells BBC News. “It freed up the amateur who didn’t have a darkroom from having someone look at the photograph before he or she did.”

Long story short, selfies have been popular forever — but with a staggering 23 million hashtagged selfies on Instagram alone, one has to wonder what makes this form of storytelling so alluring. “Mirror images are primarily private and transient,” psychologist Dr Pamela Rutledge says. “We see ourselves alive and dynamic, a person in progress.”

Meanwhile, Psychotherapist Dr. Aaron Balick suggests that selfies are part of an “active online identity” and are ultimately “something you have some control over.” Not only that, but selfies allow people to have a starring role in their own lives. A selfie’s sharability allows you to tell your story to an active audience, who in turn reward you with a “double-tap” of approval.

Think about it this way: a selfie with your pizza + a selfie with the Statue of Liberty + a selfie among the neon lights of Broadway = a complete story of your vacation in New York. And you are the star.

Source: BBC News

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Mehera Bonner is a freelance lifestyle and entertainment writer. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and two children.