A very short (but longer than 140 characters) history of the selfie

A very short (but longer than 140 characters) history of the selfie

Rock legend Paul McCartney told TV host Jimmy Fallon that he invented both the selfie and the photobomb 40 years ago as a young Beatle.
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Selfie - noun/pronunciation 'selfi'/plural 'selfies'
 
You know how pictures speak a thousand words? These pictures only need to speak 140 characters or less. It's a 21st century thing.
 
It shouldn't surprise anybody, least of all the grammar Nazis at Oxford Dictionary, that condensing language into daily-speak shorthand has become a common or garden process of simplification in the age of 140 (with spaces) or bust. And so, because we simply can't spare the one second it takes to say self-portrait, we use selfie - which takes 0.5 seconds to say, saving us the other 0.5 seconds. Which we could better use to be cool. Don't knock it - some people say selfie so many times in the day that the 0.5 seconds add up to a large chunk of their lives.
 
Online, selfie-committed celebrities are so dedicated to posting pictures of themselves that it's almost a parallel career.
 
There's popstar Rihanna, queen of the I-wake-up-looking-like-this selfie


Former Disney princess Miley Cyrus, queen of the I-know-you-don't-want-to-see-but-I-want-to-show-you selfie

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Reality star Kim Kardashian, queen of the I'm-sexy-and-I-know-it selfie

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British supermodel Cara Delevingne, queen of the pretty-girl-ugly-face selfie

Cara_instagram_360x270.jpgNone of these photo-fabulous peeps can lay claim to having invented the selfie, of course. And despite rock legend Paul McCartney appropriating that honour last year - he told TV host Jimmy Fallon that he invented both the selfie and the photobomb 40 years ago as a young Beatle - he didn't, really. The first selfie was actually taken in 1839 by American photographer Robert Cornelius. That's 120-odd years before 20-something Paul's admittedly rather nice black-and-white selfie, which you can see here:



There was a time, in the dark ages before 2010, when selfies posted on social network dinosaurs like MySpace were actually uncool. That changed when smartphone companies cashed in on teenage vanity by making phones with front-facing cameras. iPhones + Instagram = a generation of iPortraits.
 
Now, Ellen DeGeneres' Oscar selfie starring a bunch of Hollywood stars breaks Twitter. Now, posting a #nomakeupselfie lets you donate to a cancer charity (because, you know, you can't just donate instead). And soon, it's going to be a legitimate art form (if it isn't already). If only Vincent Van Gogh had owned an iPhone with a front-facing camera - he'd have died a millionaire instead of a pauper. 

 





Story First Published: March 20, 2014 12:20 IST

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