Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

If a picture is worth a thousand words (as the saying goes), then what does a selfie say about us? 

In case you’ve been out of touch for the past year or two or three, a selfie is a photo you take of yourself, usually with a smartphone. It’s then posted to a social networking site such as Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat.

The word selfie was first coined in 2002 and became popular on the social networking website, MySpace. But it made big news last year when Oxford University Press declared it the 2013 Word of the Year. They choose their Word of the Year based on its prominent influence. According to Oxford, frequency of the usage of selfie increased 17,000 percent from 2012 through 2013. 

Selfies have certainly proven their influence. Instagram contains more than 36 million photos tagged “.selfie” while “.me” tags account for an additional 98 million photos.


What do selfies say about us? Are they proof of egos run wild, confirming rampant narcissism? Are they a cry for attention in a world overly connected and yet disconnected at the same time? Are they a visual substitute for dialogue, enabling communication without using words? Or are they simply another fad, here today and gone tomorrow? 

Our answer may say as much about who we are as it does about how old we are.

Then again, selfies have been around longer than we might think. Haven’t artists been painting self-portraits for hundreds of years? Thanks to the combination of the Internet and front-facing smartphone cameras, technology has simply made it easier and faster to share our self-portraits.

But is it really the same thing? After all, artists rarely painted themselves with a duck face (extreme pursed lips), frog face (tongue sticking out – think Miley Cyrus), horse face (show those teeth!), fish lips (suck in those cheeks!) or sparrow face (a more subtle duck face with wide eyes).

This whole selfie thing has me conflicted. Guess I’m showing my age in thinking photos of oneself should be attractive…or maybe that’s just me being prideful. Still, I have to admit it’s certainly easier to share a photo than it is to write out a message detailing where you are, what you’re doing, and how you’re feeling. Maybe a picture really is worth a thousand words.

What do you think of selfies?

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  1. Moe

    Sometimes I travel alone. What’s the difference if I ask a stranger to take a picture of me with say The Western Wall in the background, or if I take a selfie. At least I don’t run the risk of the stranger stealing my camera. Oh that’s right I don’t take cameras anymore because my iPhone takes excellent pictures

  2. admin

    Good point, Moe!

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