Science and technology

Wednesday, 11 December, 2013 - 09:14

The selfie

by IainG

As many of us carry our cameras or phones almost constantly, one particular style of picture is becoming ever more ubiquitous: the selfie, a photo that you take of yourself.

The “selfie” is not new; artists, both amateurs and professionals alike, have always produced self-portraits.  Personally I didn’t enjoy art at school (probably because I was never very good at it) but I do remember that we were always drawing pictures of our faces. Nevertheless, I think this shows just how old the self-portrait is.  The only thing that has really changed is the technology which we use to create self-portraits. We have gone from pencil to the digital camera.  Well, that and the fact that the digital version has now been abbreviated to selfie (a word now so popular that it was named the Oxford English Dictionary Online’s 'Word of the Year').  

Traditionally, the best way to take a selfie was to stand in front of a mirror. This was fine though it does look a little silly as, no matter how hard you try, you cannot hide the camera.  Of course, phones now have cameras on both the back and the front so you don’t need a mirror to guide you. The drawback to this more modern method is that you can usually see the photographer’s arm in the photo.

I don’t really understand the attraction of the selfie. Taking a photo of yourself in the bathroom doesn’t provide the best scenery (especially if you forget to put the toilet seat down, gentlemen). At famous tourist attractions, it always saddens me to see people take selfies; travelling on your own is fine, but are you so mistrustful of strangers that you cannot ask a passer-by to take the photo for you? It also seems bizarre when people take photos of themselves on public transport; again, the scenery is not exactly the best.

However, there has been a great deal of controversy over the selfie. Recently, one New York tourist took a selfie with a man threatening to commit suicide on the ledge of a bridge behind her; and, even more recently, Barack Obama, along with David Cameron and the Danish prime minister, Thorning Schmidt, took a “group selfie” at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Wanting to remember significant moments is all very well – but there’s a time and a place, isn’t there?

Language level

Have you ever taken a selfie? What do you think about selfies? 

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