I ran a marathon last Sunday (in time 3:58:55 if you want to know) and I noticed people taking photos of themselves with smartphones during the run. The act of taking selfies did not seem to cause accidents in Singapore like in Hong Kong, but selfie-taking is truly fascinating phenomenon and the selection as the “word of the year” by Oxford dictionary underlines the importance.
Last year I wrote how Pinterest is the tool for lazy & self-obsessed and cynically you could say that selfie is the tipping point of that laziness and narcissism. You do not even need to be interested about anything particular expect yourself. However, when looking more closely the selfie-picture is more revealing than your average duckface:
Visual storytelling: Selfie is about the process, not the end product
In your average marathon you have professional photographers almost in every turn. So taking a selfie is not about having a photo of yourself, it is about taking the photo as well. Selfie is about being the creator and the subject. How you take the selfie is almost as important as how you look. Do you take the photo from up or down, portrait or landscape and what is your pose? Do you squinch, smize or prune? I think where many analysis go wrong is that taking a selfie is a purely narcissistic endeavor. Many times selfies are not solely about how you look, but what is the message you really want to convey. What is the moment you want to capture? As the visual storytelling becomes more and more important, taking a selfie is same as sending SMS was to my generation. Like Frédéric della Faille (founder of Frontpage) concludes in New York Times article:
“The idea of the selfie is much more like your face is the caption and you’re trying to explain a moment or tell a story. It’s much more of a moment and a story than a photo. It is not about being beautiful.”
When people wondered why Facebook offered three billion for Snapchat, this is the main reason. Selfies are a new communication vehicle. Why Snapchat turned the offer down? Maybe they have clearer vision in the selfie crystal ball than us. Or they are just crazy.
Looking good: Expect the rise of selfie-enhancing tools in 2014
Although me, myself & I are not the only drivers for selfies, they are naturally the main ones. Teenagers taking selfies at funerals or exposing private parts in Snapchat are sad examples of selfies. Selfies strengthen the worrying trend of overtly focus on appearance even at younger age. You are bombarded everywhere with certain beauty ideal, how you will match it?
Well, if you do not have the right looks naturally you can always fake it.
Modification and enchanching the selfies are huge opportunities for innovation and quick monetization. China is leading the way on this one. Meitu Xiu Xiu (super simple photo editor) is already one of the most popular apps there, and Momentcam reached no.1 position in Appstore also beyond the China borders. If people are spending so much time taking photos of themselves, natural next step is that they will spend more time polishing them. That will enable them either to look good (Meitu) or tell their story or capture the current moment better (Momentcam).
The selfie-phenomenon will not disappear soon. More likely we see acceleration in the amount of selfies. What started from teenagers has already expanded to adults. According to Samsung study 30% of all pictures taken by 18-24 year olds are selfies. That is quite many gigabytes of duckfaces. Soon you will see your parents taking selfies. And you remember what happened when your parents joined Facebook?
When the trends get tired is the moment when they come commercially interesting.