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‘Selfie’: more than the Oxford Dictionary word of the year

‘Selfie’: more than the Oxford Dictionary word of the year

‘Selfie’: more than the Oxford Dictionary word of the year
December 03
13:30 2013

Tricia Sims / Intern Writer

The “selfie” has become a pop-culture phenomenon over the past decade. With the introduction of front-facing cell phone cameras, selfies now rule the world of social media with millions posted every day.

“People have always taken self portraits of some kind, either with paint or early cameras,” journalism professor and social media expert Samra Bufkins said. “Now that we have cell phone cameras it is so easy to do it. The easier it gets, the more people will do it.”

“Selfie” was recently named the Oxford Dictionary 2013 word of the year.

Psychology professor Dr. Rex Wright said not all selfies are equal.

“Different selfies are driven by different motives. Some are probably normal and healthy, sharing your life with close friends and family members. Others are probably not so healthy. They are very self-centered and think that more people care than actually do.”

Networking today has changed the way people see themselves, and in turn has changed the way they want others to see them by blurring the lines between our public and private lives, said Nicole Dash, sociology associate professor and associate dean of the College of Public Affairs and Community Service.

Taking selfies can be a way of showing off and getting attention. Another motive teens have for taking selfies is to record everything done daily by making a digital diary.

”People like documenting what is going on in their life and remembering things,” psychology freshmen Katherine Higgins said.

These days if people run into a famous person, they take a selfie with them instead of the old days when you would ask someone to take a picture of them and the celebrity.

“A few months ago, the kids at the Vatican met the Pope, and did a selfie with the Pope,“ Bufkins said. “He was laughing and going along with it.”

Posting selfies on social media can have both good and bad effects on people. Anytime people participate in something like taking selfies, they risk that their participation will not be accepted, Dash said.

“Just like any social interaction there are norms and values that are related to the activity, and sometimes negative sanctions,” Dash said. “In this case, things like mocking and teasing, if people don’t think you’re doing it the way it should be done.”

An explanation for the selfie phenomenon might be a psychology theory called the Mere Exposure Effect.

“[It’s] how people see themselves and how they want other people to see them that way,” Higgins said. “But they do not always come across as seen that way to other people.”

Young adults need to consider where they are and what they are doing before they post a picture to a social media site, because future employers can easily search them, Bufkins said.

“If you do a selfie in front of your grandmother’s funeral, which has been done, people who are trying to hire this person are going to wonder ‘Gosh, do they have any sense of decorum?’” Bufkins said. “We need to think a little bit, because once it is out there it is out there forever.”

Bufkins said most selfies are  fine and can be harmless fun, as long as the background is considered.

The trend on Instagram and Twitter of  #SS (“Selfie Sunday”) ,in which people now post selfies particularly of Sunday activities ,may not be a bad thing, Wright said. Sharing these selfies can help create a community bond.

A new app, “Shots of Me,” dedicated just to taking selfies, launched last week, and Justin Bieber invested $1 million in the project, according to

This simple act of taking a picture has become such a big phenomenon because everyone starts to do it, Dash said. People everywhere see celebrities doing it so they accept it, giving them the social justification to do it as well.

“There is the chance that it is a fad that will die out,” Bufkins said. “But as long as people travel places and meet celebrities and go out and have a good time with friends, the selfie is going to be around as  long as we have digital toys.”

Feature photo: Journalism sophomore Jacqueline Sears takes a “selfie” on her phone. She actively uses social media sites such as SnapChat and instagram, which encourage you to take pictures as part of the user interaction. A lot of social media sites like Instagram host a sea of users who take “selfie” photos on a daily basis. Photo by Fey Sandoval / Staff Photographer 

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