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History of the Selfie

Simpsons Selfie

Loved by millions, hated by millions more, the humble selfie has forced its way into the modern-day vernacular and is embraced by millions, including A-listers such a Kim Kardashian, Rhianna, Lady Gaga and even Snoop Dogg.

In case you weren’t aware, the term ‘selfie’ - the art of taking your own photograph - was officially added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013 much to the utter dismay of old-school intellects. Seemingly exploding from nowhere, the selfie phenomenon has sent social media into a self-portrait frenzy and forged a love/hate relationship with today’s tech-savvy world.

The Beginning 

But what's the history of the selfie and where did this act of self-indulgence originate? Well, we’ll have to travel all the way to the 19th century - 1839, to be exact – to find out. A shaggy haired chap named Robert Cornelius took what is thought to be the first self-portrait snap outside his family shop in Philadelphia, USA, using the very first photographic process – the daguerreotype method. Arguably not a true selfie – but not a million miles away from today’s iterations - Cornelius had time to set up the device, get in shot and replace the lens cap due to the sluggishness of the pioneering technique.

Robert Cornelius Selfie

The Kodak Era

It wasn’t until 1900, and the introduction of the portable Kodak Brownie box camera in 1900, that the notion of selfies became more widespread. Usually taken in a mirror, the early 20th century selfies were taken by resting the cumbersome cameras on a hard surface with the subject perfecting the shot through a viewfinder at the top of the box. Even back then, selfies were popular with teenagers such as Anastasia Nikolaevna, the 13-year-old Grand Duchess of Russia, who took a mirror shot in 1914 and sent it to her friend with the note “I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling." You wouldn't get such a complaint from an iPhone-wielding Miley Cyrus!

The Rise of Social Media

With the explosion of social media in the 21st century, ‘MySpace pose’ became the accepted colloquialism for the noughties kids’ self-indulgent, narcissistic snaps. However, MySpace was a relatively short-lived craze and the eponymous term died with it.

Apparently, the term ‘selfie’ was first uttered online in 2002 when a member of Aussie internet forum ABC Online shared a picture after a drunken night out with the tag:

Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”

Graphic picture of a chomped lip aside, the unidentified, inebriated wordsmith unknowingly devised a term that would later become the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year. Crazy, huh? 

rise of the selfie

   unit = frequency per billion words

After a few, fairly dormant years, the term ‘selfie’ gathered momentum and finally found its way into the public’s daily glossary in 2013 with a little help from the incredibly popular Facebook and Instagram. Studies show that the frequency of its use increased by 17,000 per cent, giving Oxford English Dictionaries little option but to add ‘selfie’ to its roster and ultimately crown it their word of the year.

Since its inauguration into the dictionary, the popularity of the selfie has only amplified. And when the Obamas and Pope Francis are getting in on the action, you know something has skyrocketed. As illustrated by these 2014 figures, if it’s good enough for the US President and the leader of the Catholic Church, it’s good enough for abosultely everyone:

  • 1 million selfies are taken each day
  • 47% of adults admit to taking selfies
  • 47% of adults admit to taking selfies
  • 40% of people age 18-34 admit to taking selfies at least once a week
  • Women take 1.3 times more selfies than blokes

The Future

So what does the future hold for the photographs everyone loves to hate? Well, mobile and tech companies are no slouches and have - much to the delight of egomaniacs everywhere - jumped on the selfie bandwagon by refining front-facing cameras on phones and tablets and developed new-fangled devices such as the selfie stick. The HTC Desire Eye - a device that boasts a 13MP back and front camera, top-notch flashes and built-in selfie tools – demonstrates just how big this guilty pleasure has gotten and, unfortunately for some, proves that selfies aren't going anywhere soon.

The selfie stick has landed here at Mobile Madhouse! No more fuzzy portraits or jittery videos. No more awkward angles or straining to get the right shot. Our range of selfie sticks transforms your selfie and video experience – perfect for awesome panoramas with you at the centre of it all.

Click here to view our range of Selfie Sticks.

Simpsons Selfie

Loved by millions, hated by millions more, the humble selfie has forced its way into the modern-day vernacular and is embraced by millions, including A-listers such a Kim Kardashian, Rhianna, Lady Gaga and even Snoop Dogg.

In case you weren’t aware, the term ‘selfie’ - the art of taking your own photograph - was officially added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013


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