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A passing 'selfie' phase?

A passing
Highlights

A Passing \'Selfie\' Phase? After Ellen DeGeneres\'s group selfie that almost crashed Twitter on the night of Oscars reaching 779,295 retweets in approximately half an hour, some of Bollywood\'s biggest names have joined forces for star-studded selfies.

This too shall pass – says an internet expert while talking about the hottest and at times annoying trend of ‘selfie’. However, as of October 2013, there are about 35 million selfies on Instagram globally, according to a MindShift study. As for sharing of selfies, Facebook leads with 48 per cent, followed by WhatsApp and text messages (27 per cent), Twitter (9 per cent), Instagram (8 per cent), Snapchat (5 per cent) and Pinterest (2 per cent). And the trend only gets more aggressive with even celebrity selfies doing the rounds.

After Ellen DeGeneres's group selfie that almost crashed Twitter on the night of Oscars reaching 779,295 retweets in approximately half an hour, some of Bollywood's biggest names have joined forces for star-studded selfies. Ranbir Kapoor took the photo at the NDTV Indian of the Year Awards. At the IIFA awards last month, host Shahid Kapoor gathered a bunch of celebrities into a version of Oscar selfie. Not only the youngsters even Amitabh Bachchan, clicked a group selfie at the promo song launch of ‘Bhoothnath Returns’ at the grand finale of ‘India’s Got Talent’.

Be it Narendra Modi who was caught on the wrong side of the Election Commission with his selfie taken outside a polling booth showing his inked finger and BJP’s lotus symbol, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh’s leaked selfie with his partner Amrita Rai or Obama himself talking that infamous selfie with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron at Nelson Mandela’s funeral Selfie, is undoubtedly the biggest trend of our times. Evidently the Oxford Dictionary endorsed the word by recognising it as the Word of the Year, 2013.

The word may be new, the trend may be hot, but selfies go back to as old as the advent of the camera...roughly early 1900s, even as Beatles fame Paul McCartney claimed on a television talk show that he was the one who invented a selfie, courtesy his self-photograph captured from a mirror image. A few years later came cameras that could be set to start with a time lag allowing people to take their own pictures. Remember that popular scene from the Telugu film, ‘Sagara Sangamam’ with Kamal Haasan and Jayaprada!

“We would take selfies and group selfies with our 2 mega pixel digital camera way back in 2005 itself…much before internet caught up with us. However, now with better technology and more options, thanks to smart phones, the trend caught up, especially so with Ellen De Generes’ famous Oscar selfie going viral on the internet,” shares a young professional Navin.

Some psychologists warned that taking lot of selfies are a symptom of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), an anxiety disorder that causes sufferers to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance.

In a first such study, experts have linked selfies with mental illness and have suggested that people regularly searching for the perfect angle from which to portray themselves could, in some cases, be ill.

“Selfies are the new in thing on the internet. But the problem is, psychologically, it is not a good habit. It shows the need of a person to be clicked. It shows how self-centered a person is, which clearly is not a good quality. Yes the photos look good on social network. The mental issue might not be with everyone right now. But too much of anything is bad on the psyche. We have enough things to mess up our normal lives. There is no need to add a ‘Selfie’ to make it worse,” says Parminder Singh Multani who is also into selfies, yet wishes to be careful about not getting obsessed.

Even as several studies claim that selfie is an act of self-obsession when done in excess, selfie lovers wonder what the big deal is about. “Selfies are amazing. I am totally in love with them. You do not even need a photographer to click it. Plus, the raw feeling in the selfie looks so good. Say for example, the selfie at the Oscars this year was brilliant. When would you see so many actors in one picture which is so informal? The answer is never. So according to me, selfies are brilliant. And it gets people together,” says Mastan Ali, an investment banker.

The debate rages on if the trend portrays self-confidence or is it a cry for help; meanwhile many companies started using the internet’s biggest trend to promote their brands.

In fact the Oscar selfie of DeGeneres with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and Kevin Spacey was valued at $1 billion by Publicis Groupe’s CEO Levy.

Max Bupa Health Insurance’s campaign about health insurances asking people to take family selfies and upload them on Twitter - #FamilySelfie – touched 2.4 lakh online users; Lancome India, the luxury perfumes and cosmetics company’s #GoNoFilter campaign urged Instagrammers to post pictures taken without using filters; Dove’s #DoveSelfie campaign invited women to take self pictures of their best hairstyle, as per a theme of the day; GSM operator Vodafone India launched a group selfie contest – #vodafonefanarmy – recently.

This is in addition to using selfie as a subject of the advertisements like in Deepika Padukone’s ‘Kellogs K’ ad where she eats the corn flakes to reduce her weight for that perfect selfie.

Dressed to impress and armed with cellphones to keep their legions of social media followers happy, selfies have grown manifold. As the ‘selfie’ trend thrived, so did the pressure of having a good profile photo on the Facebook. Dozens got their daily dose of pride with the increasing likes on their Facebook photo, but then none were happy with the status quo. They wanted to look better in their surrogate world.

The obsession for that one perfect selfie is apparently driving people nuts. A study by American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) says that the rise of ‘selfies’ is having a huge impact on the facial plastic surgery industry. The study revealed that one in three facial plastic surgeons surveyed saw an increase in requests for procedures due to patients being more self aware of looks on social media.

According to a British daily, teenager Danny Bowman, 19, became so obsessed with taking the perfect selfie that he tried to kill himself when he failed to do so. Bowman reportedly spent 10 hours a day taking up to 200 photos of himself on his iPhone.

Another case was reported in the US, where Los Angeles talent agent Triana Lavey paid $15,000 to alter her chin and nose because she hated the way she looked in her selfies and other online pictures.

“As much as I would like to ape everybody else and click a selfie, I miserably fail at doing so. Either only my nose gets pictured or scary set of teeth. Never the whole of me or what I actually want to click,” laments Aditi D just like many others of her ilk.

Even as young and old alike seem to be increasingly obsessed with selfies, many hope it is but a passing trend. “This is just a craze that people have these days. We have seen so many crazy things happen. From Kolavari di to gangnam style. They all come and go. Selfies also are nothing different. They too will come and go. Generation X needs something that they can have fun with constantly. And it should be changing. Today it is selfie,”

Like all cultural phenomena that are ubiquitous, the selfie is poised to go the way of Gangnam Style. This generation has a retention of a rodent, eventually they’d say “Oh Selfies are so 2014.”

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