The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Featured Story

June 25, 2013

What did Narcissus say to Instagram? Selfie time!

NEW YORK — In these hyper-connected, over-shared times dwell two kinds of people: those preoccupied with taking and uploading photos of themselves and those who have never heard of the selfie.

The raunchy, goofy, poignant, sexy or drunken self-portrait has been a common sight since phone camera met social media. Now, nearly a decade since the arm-extended or in-the-mirror photos became a mainstay of MySpace — duck face or otherwise — selfies are a pastime across generations and cultures.

Justin Bieber puts up plenty with his shirt off and Rihanna poses for sultry snaps, but a beaming Hillary Clinton recently took a turn with daughter Chelsea, who tweeted their happy first attempt with the hashtag #ProudDaughter.

Two other famous daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama, selfied at dad's second inauguration, pulling faces in front of a smartphone. And Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide earned a spot in the Selfie Hall of Fame with a striking, other-worldly shot, arms extended as reflected in his helmet outside the International Space Station last year.

"It just comes so naturally after a point," said Elizabeth Zamora, a 24-year-old marketing account coordinator in Dallas who has taken hundreds of selfies since she got her first iPhone two years ago, with the front-facing camera that has become the selfie gold standard.

"You just take it and you don't even realize it and then you're sharing it with all your friends," she said. "I try not to go crazy."

If we're not taking them, we're certainly looking, regardless of whether we know what they're called. We're lurking on the selfies of our teens, enjoying the hijinx of co-workers and friends and mooning over celebrities, who have fast learned the marketing value — and scandalous dangers — of capturing their more intimate, unpolished selves.

The practice of freezing and sharing our thinnest slices of life has become so popular that the granddaddy of dictionaries, the Oxford, is monitoring the term selfie as a possible addition. Time magazine included the selfie in its Top 10 buzzwords of 2012 (at No. 9) and New York magazine's The Cut blog declared in April: "Ugly Is the New Pretty: How Unattractive Selfies Took Over the Internet."

On Instagram alone, there's #selfiesunday, along with related tags where millions of selfies land daily. More than 23 million photos have been uploaded to the app with the tag #selfie and about 70 million photos clog Instagram's #me.

What are we to make of all this navel-gazing (sometimes literally)? Are selfies, by definition, culturally dangerous? Offensive? An indicator of moral decline?

Beverly Hills, Calif., psychiatrist Carole Lieberman sees narcissism with a capital N. "The rise of the selfie is a perfect metaphor for our increasingly narcissistic culture. We're desperately crying out: Look at me!"

But Pamela Rutledge doesn't see it that way. The director of the nonprofit Media Psychology Research Center, which explores how humans interact with technology, sees the selfie as democratizing the once-snooty practice of self-portraiture, a tradition that long predates Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

She sees some key differences between selfies and self-portraits of yore. Unlike painted portraiture, selfies are easily deletable. And "bad or funny is good in a way that wasn't the case when people had to pay for film to be developed," or for a professional painter, she said.

"Albrecht Durer's self-portraiture is these incredible self-reflections and explorations of technique, and then when Rihanna snaps her picture it's just self-aggrandizement, or it's promotion, so you have a fairly interesting double standard based upon who's taking the self-portrait," said Rutledge, in Boston.

In selfies, we can be famous and in control of our own images and storylines. As for the young, the more authority figures — parents, teachers — dislike them and "declare them a sign of a self-obsessed, narcissistic generation, the more desirable they become," she said.

The word selfie in itself carries multiple connotations, Rutledge observes. "The 'ie' at the end makes selfie a diminutive, implying some affection and familiarity." From a semantic's perspective, the selfie is a "little' self" — a small, friendly bit of the self, she said.

There's a sense of immediacy and temporariness. "Granted, little is really temporary on the Internet, but it is more that by definition. Transient, soon to be upstaged by the next one," Rutledge said.

Self-portraits tagged as 'selfie' first surfaced on Flickr, a photo-sharing site, and on MySpace in 2004, Rutledge said. The earliest reference in UrbanDictionary was to "selfy" in 2005.

In historical terms, elites in Ancient Egypt were fond of self-portraits, Rutledge said. And then there was the mirror, invented in the 15th century and allowing artists like the prolific Durer in Germany to have at it in more meaningful detail.

While the self-involved Narcissus stared at his reflection in a pond in Greek mythology, it was the mirror that "really was the first piece of technology where an artist could see his own image long enough to paint it, other than just painting self-impressions," Rutledge said.

Fast forward to the 1860s and the advent of cameras, launching a new round of selfies, though they took considerable skill and expense.

Leap with us once again to 2010 and the launch of Instagram, and on to 2012, when 86 percent of the U.S. population had a cell phone, bringing on the cheaper selfie as social media and mobile Internet access spread.

"What's most interesting to me is how we're trying to grapple with what it means," Rutledge said. "We know what it means when we see somebody's picture of their kid holding a soccer ball. We're OK with that. And we know what it means to have a portrait in a high school yearbook or of a real estate agent on a business card. We know how to think about all of those things, but we don't know how to think about this mass production of self-reflection."

Is it possible the selfie doesn't mean anything at all?

"In the era of the Kardashians, everyone has become their own paparazzi," mused Rachel Weingarten, a personal-brand consultant in New York.

Another New Yorker, 14-year-old Beatrice Landau, tends to agree. She regularly uploads selfies, from vacation shots on Instagram to fleeting images using Snapchat, a phone app that deletes them after 10 seconds.

"I know selfies are ridiculous, but it's definitely part of our 'teenage culture,'" Beatrice said. "You don't have to have a person with you to take a picture of you, when you can take one yourself."

 

1
Text Only
Featured Story
  • film_W.jpg What's 2 Do in Enid, area

    Check out the interactive ENE Events Calendar to see what's happening in Enid and Northwest Oklahoma and add your own event for free. Click HERE to sign up for free entertainment, sports, weather and news alerts.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • HCL Acid Spill_1_BV.jpg Up to 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled near Hennessey

    A fracking-related hydrochloric acid spill southwest of Hennessey is possibly the biggest of its kind in the state, according to an Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • Oklahoma Bombing Vide_Hass.jpg Man claims tampering in case over bombing videos

    Trentadue says the agency is refusing to release videos that show a second person was with Timothy McVeigh when he parked a truck outside the Oklahoma City federal building and detonated a bomb that killed 168 people. The government says McVeigh was alone.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • flood watch.tiff UPDATED: Garfield County under flash flood watch

    Rainfall chances start in earnest tonight, with an 80 percent chance after 2 a.m. that increases to 90 percent Wednesday and Wednesday night. Flooding in streets, ditches and low-lying areas could be possible.

    July 29, 2014 7 Photos

  • storm_W.jpg Storm victims face dilemma: accept loans or reject them

    The tornadoes, flooding and hail that struck Oklahoma last year left hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage, causing many home and business owners to seek help in the form of low-interest federal loans.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • Quilts_4_BH_W.jpg History of an art form

    Woven amongst the fabric, patterns and stitches in the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center’s newest special exhibit are stories of past generations.

    July 27, 2014 3 Photos

  • Academy.jpg State prisons expand their reach to train new officers

    On a recent day, a class in the McAlester program was filled with the sounds of bodies thudding onto thick, rainbow-colored pads held together by duct tape, along with heavy breathing and tapping as cadets indicated they’d successfully been subdued.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • FortStillFacility.jpg FBI: No arrests yet in scam targeting migrant kids

    Con artists use private information about the children to contact their family members and demand payment for bogus processing and travel expenses needed to reunite the kids with their relatives. Families with migrants in Texas and Oklahoma have been targeted.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo 4 Stories

  • Child Tax Credit_Hass.jpg House votes to boost child tax credit for some

    With nearly all Republicans voting in favor and most Democrats opposed, the bill cleared the House by a vote of 237-173. The White House threatened to veto the bill, though the Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to pass it.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Oil-Covered Owls_1_JN.jpg Caretaker: One of 2 oil-covered owls has died

    Jean Neal and her husband, Jim, of Fairview, have been caring for the owls since Tuesday, July 22, 2014, when they received them from Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, which is investigating the incident and the death of several other birds found at a neglected oil field tank site.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

Featured Ads
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction
NDN Video
Under Armour Launches Biggest Women's Campaign with Inspiring Ad NYPD chokehold death of Eric Garner was homicide: medical examiner Christina Aguilera Pulls a Demi Moore! Man with no arms throws first pitch Chapter Two: Composing for a film in retirement Is Justin Bieber Dating a Model? Guardians of the Galaxy (Trailer) 'Sharknado 2:' Hottest Memes Surfing The Net Snoop Dogg Narrating Animal Footage Is Perfect Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian Recapping a Blockbuster MLB Trade Deadline Tigers Acquire David Price - @TheBuzzeronFOX Russell Brand Slams Sean Hannity Over Gaza Conflict Segment Woman's Dive Goes Terribly Wrong Brian Williams Reports on Daughter Allison Williams' 'Peter Pan' Casting News Did Jimmy Fallon Look Up Heidi Klum's Dress? What Drama? Miranda Kerr Poses Topless Plane crashes in San Diego Costco parking lot Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2"
House Ads
Facebook