As the year draws to an end, here’s a tribute to the word of the year — selfie. Chennai-ites talk about the new craze and how to master the art to Priyadarshini Paitandy

Trapped in a lift, thanks to a sudden power cut, I picked up my phone in the claustrophobic dark space and... clicked a selfie. For those judging me, come on, you know you would do it too. After all, this phenomenon was quite the rage this year.

The Pope did it. Barrack Obama does it...boy, aren’t we in good company? Closer home, a clutch of celebrities and sports stars, including Priyanka Chopra, Shah Rukh Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Sania Mirza, often splatter their Twitter accounts with self shots and fans aren’t complaining.  

Keeping the trend in mind, photographer Atul Kasbekar launched an app titled Signature Selfies. All one has to do is upload his/her best selfie and win an opportunity to get their photo shot by the ace photographer. Actor Lekha Washington may not be incessantly clicking selfies but is all for it. “We all need a witness, documentation as it were, and I see nothing wrong with selfies. Artists have been doing self-portraits for centuries. It’s how you take a selfie that says a lot about you. Vanity is a hard thing to remove from a selfie, as are duck faces!” she adds.

Around for a while

The word selfie has been around for a while with the first one being shot in the mid 1800s. But it was one of those words nobody paid any attention to till camera phones, Instagram and the social media-self obsessed lot like us took to it with a vengeance. Its popularity skyrocketed and so did the number of selfies on Facebook. The Oxford Dictionary went ahead and made it ‘the word of the year.’ Apparently it was a unanimous choice. Even Miley Cyrus’ much-talked-about act at the MTV VMA couldn’t do much to get ‘twerk’ the coveted title. According to the Oxford dictionary, selfie is defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Vacation spots often have wide-eyed travellers clicking selfies in front of monuments. Pictures of peoples’ faces in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and the Taj Mahal are common on websites. It doesn’t matter anymore that the actual subjects are partially covered by the selfie enthusiast’s face. It’s a good thing Mona Lisa cannot complain about how often she gets photobombed. Unfortunately, decorum has taken a backseat with tourists clicking selfies at sombre monuments such as the Auschwitz Memorial, Pearl Harbour and tombs. One of the news reports of a Canada-based website even suggested that sculptors, of late, are making monuments keeping the selfie obsession in mind, so that the selfie, when clicked, can comfortably accommodate both the person and the monument. Taking the obsession a step further and not necessarily in good taste, Tumblr has a group titled Selfies at Funerals that documents selfies clicked by its members at funerals or other such melancholic events.

So what is it that makes selfies so popular? “It does feed narcissistic tendencies. But it also makes me look good. I know which angle works for me. It’s better than requesting people to keep clicking till they get the perfect shot, right?” says 20-year-old Anoushka Sarkar who clicks around 30 selfies of herself in a week.

Paloma Rao says, “I am so bad at selfies. I am still trying to perfect my aim. I think selfies are convenient and tell a story. It’s the random, no-purpose ones that I don’t quite understand.”

Some are unapologetic advocates of selfies, while there are a few who have self shots posted across their pages but are embarrassed to comment about them. And then there are those who find the whole concept annoying and futile.

It’s not clear whether the trend is here to stay or will fizzle out, but while it lasts we are making the most of it. So pose, pout and click, it’s time for a selfie!