Selfies Is A Word

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 29, 2013 in News & Opinion |

Sometimes it takes the official line in what is acceptable language and what not a while to catch up. We’ve been using the word Selfies for quite a while, self-made photographs taken, usually with a Smart Phone, of ourselves somewhere interesting. Now the word has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary and is officially recognized the world over.

Viktoria Michaelis: Smart Phone

Photo Credit: Brian WilkinsCreative Commons

Of course, it has been accepted into other dictionaries long ago, but the addition to the Oxford English Dictionary is, perhaps, something of a milestone. And with it comes the chance for people to comment officially on the Art of Self-Shots as they see fit, without having to put inverted commas around the word. And, of course, make fun of what they find.

Because the Selfie is more than just a picture of the person, it has become a statement about the person as well as a record of what they are doing, what they can see, a proof, if you will, that they were there.

Viktoria Michaelis: Self-Shot With Broken Mirror

Photo Credit: Lotus CarrollCreative Commons

And it is this new form, what a person is doing, which brings real interest with it, as well as some strange words of condemnation. Is there, for example, an inappropriate place where a Selfie can be shot? Is it a bad thing to take a photograph inside a submarine, in Auschwitz or in front of a nuclear plant? Aren’t they also photographic memories of where we have been, also proof that we really were there?

The standard Selfie is a head and shoulders shot, usually uploaded to some social networking platform such as Facebook. It says something about the person taking the shot, but not much more. Why not add a bit of scenery, a little background to the whole? Is a Selfie in Auschwitz more prone to condemnation that a photograph of this historical site without people included?

Fine, there are limits. Taking a Selfie next to the remains of your grandmother – either newly deceased in a hospital bed or lying in her coffin – is perhaps not quite the sort of Selfie anyone would wish to have as a memory. I am sure there must be far better memories of the dearly departed than an image of them still as a still warm corpse. That said, images of the dead are hardly uncommon: there was once a trend to take photographs of the recently departed dressed up as if they were still alive and keep this image as a final memento. But Selfies taken in some historical location? Is it really denigrating Anne Frank to take a photograph of yourself reflected in the windows of her house?

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  • Francois says:

    I just put this comment up on the second link you gave. As my publisher, you get a first:

    Are Daily Mail reporters hired biased or do they get special training? Do not ban quite yet, read on:

    Just a transposition of the headline of this article, no personal offence meant and I hope none taken. I just wanted to highlight, as many commenters have brushed upon, that there are other explanations than fad and insensitivity.

    Defence mechanism for one. We all need to find a way to cope with our feelings when confronted with death, disaster, and horror. Humour has been proven effective. Admittedly, it can be tasteless. However, judging without knowing “Who says What to Whom with which intended Effect” goes against the fundamentals of communication analysis.

    Contrary to popular belief, an image is not the same as a thousand words. On the surface, perhaps the most inappropriate image here is that of the young man at Auschwitz. However, can this publication claim to know who he is, and what he really meant with the #respect hashtag?

    • A good comment, just a shame that it will probably get lost amidst all the rubbish that the Daily Mail accepts. If we really want to cut out anything which might, possibly prove offensive to one or another person – not just in photography – and take things according to strict rules, what fun is there left in life? And how is someone going to show what they saw at Auschwitz, that they were there, if not through a photograph? Who knows how many other images were taken which are not Selfies but which show far more and with greater ‘respect’?

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