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Selfie, sometimes spelled Selfy, is an internet slang term for “self-portrait” that is used to describe self-taken digital photographs. The term is commonly used as a hashtag on photo-sharing communities to indicate that the subject in the photo is the uploader himself or herself.
While it is unclear where the term selfie began, selfy spelled with a y was used as early as 2004 on photo-sharing site Flickr to describe self-taken portraits. The term was also popular within the teenage population on the social networking site MySpace, as exhibited by the first definition for selfy, submitted to Urban Dictionary on April 22nd, 2005.
In late June 2005, the first group pool named Selfies was created on Flickr. Though it was intended as a place for fans of the music group Self to convene, it has since become a repository for self-taken photos. Throughout the mid 2000s, the tags “selfie” and “selfy” continued to be used throughout Flickr to designate these self portraits. In early 2007, the first Flickr pool dedicated specifically to selfie shots was created (shown below). Later that year, in September 2007, the term was first used outside of personal blogging space when TMZ used it to describe actress Rosario Dawson stopping to take a photo with a fan.
In 2009, selfies were discussed on a college lifestyle blog CollegeCandy as part of a humorous discussion detailing the process of taking self shots. In July, “Selfie” was first added to Urban Dictionary, describing it as an activity specifically done for MySpace and Facebook. Around the same time, the tags “selfy” and “selfie” began taking off on other social networks including Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and deviantArt. In October 2010, Selfie.com was registered, featuring thousands of selfies from across the web. In January 2011, the blog Selfie Magic launched, providing tutorials teaching others how to take good self-portraits. Though the blog stopped updating in January 2012, it launched the hashtag Selfie Saturday, encouraging readers to take a photo of themselves once a week.
Throughout 2012, the term “Selfie” began making headlines on sites including the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Gawker and Buzzfeed, many of which highlighted celebrities taking these types of photos. In December, TIME named Selfie #9 on their Top 10 list of 2012 Buzzwords. The next year, Read Write Web and Mashable both took a deeper look into the motivations and psychology behind these photographs, citing research discussing the ways self-taken photographs could effect a person’s self-esteem. As of February 2013, there are hundreds of Facebook fan pages dedicated to different kind of selfies including nude photos, fitness photos and humorous photos. These three communities alone have more than 475,000 likes among them.
The term MySpace Angles was coined as early as 2005 to describe the manner in which many MySpace users would photograph themselves at an angle to obscure any perceived physical flaws. In 2010, dating site OkCupid found that despite the smoke and mirrors behind pictures that utilized angled photos, women with profile photos utilizing this technique received nearly double the amount of new contacts as other users.
GPOY, or Gratuitous Picture of Yourself, is a Tumblr tag that began appearing in 2008 in its earlier form, GPOYW, which encouraged the community to posts these photos on Wednesdays. Though the photos are not required to be self-taken, many of them are due to bloggers using their phones or computer web cams to take them. By 2009, the “W” had been removed from the tag, resulting in its use any day of the week. In 2012, Buzzfeed posted an in-depth look into the use of the GPOY tag, finding that many young woman use it as a way to express their personalities without the fear of being judged for putting too many pictures of themselves on their blogs. The tag has also made its way to Instagram, where more than 174,000 photos have used it.
Self Pop Tart
Self Pop Tart is a single topic blog that curates user-submitted self-portraits in which the cameras have been replaced with cutout images of pop tart pastries for comedic effect. Launched on November 22nd, 2011, the blog saw significant traffic after Fall Out Boy singer Pete Wentz tweeted a link to 2.8 million followers at the time. After 114 photoshopped images, the blog ceased updating in December 2012.
Guido Jesus is an advice animal image macro series that utilizes a self-taken photo of a tanned man with long, flowing black hair. The captions tend to make a biblical illusion followed by an irreverent statement that makes the character seem more like a Jersey Shore cast member than a holy entity. Since its first appearance in 2011, more than 1300 instances of Guido Jesus have been submitted to Quickmeme.
Ulzzang is a South Korean internet slang term used to describe ordinary people who have become internet famous due to being deemed especially attractive. The term, which is a portmanteau of the Korean words for face (“Ul-gul”) and best (“Zzang”), was used as early as the 1990s, leading to the creation of a number of beauty ranking websites similar to Hot or Not throughout the 2000s.
Don’t Obsess Over Me
“Don’t Obsess Over Me, I Am Only a Legend” is a catchphrase that was first uttered in a discussion thread on the Chinese MOP forums where the OP (original poster) went on a rant about how he was someone to be respected and admired. The “holier-than-thou” tone of his post led to more than 4900 tounge-in-cheek replies and dozens of video parodies using the song “Only a Legend” (哥只是个传说) by Chen Xu (陈旭).
Pretty Girls, Ugly Faces
Pretty Girls Ugly Faces is a photo fad in which girls take pictures of themselves while posing in an unflattering manner, defying the stereotypical understanding that women take self-portraits to obscure attributes they deem negative. Though a Tumblr blog was created for these photos in 2011, the fad did not take off until a subreddit was created in July 2012.
Smaller search peaks for “selfie” in the early 2000s may be attributed to a misspelling of name Selphie Tilmitt, a character in the Final Fantasy game series. Additionally, the term was used for fans of the alternative rock band Self, who released their first album in 1993.
Business Insider – Rihanna’s Tips For Taking The Perfect Instagram Selfie
Read Write Web – #Me: Instagram Narcissism And The Scourge Of The Selfie