Selfies - those slightly blurred, vaguely narcissistic, self-portrait photos we take with front-facing cameras on our mobile devices - are here to stay.
The song #SELFIE (yes, hashtag included) was a hit on YouTube last year (warning: if you search for this video, it’s not kid-appropriate). Although the video is highly suggestive and glamorizes a club-going, binge-drinking, self-absorbed, 20-something lifestyle, it offers a glimpse into the fascination with selfies.
Once thought to be an activity exclusively for the “Me” generation, it seems people of all ages are interested in snapping selfies.
People take selfies to connect with friends and family on social networking sites. It’s the photo version of a status update.
Some people take selfies to commemorate important life events. After all, if you go to a concert and don’t post a selfie, how do you prove you were really there?
Other people take selfies simply because they can. Put a camera in everyone’s hand and this is the result.
Good selfies are easy to capture. A quick search for “how to take a selfie” on Google generates thousands of hits with tips for taking the best shots.
Companies are catering to the selfie crowd. Popular app Snapchat was created almost exclusively for selfie enthusiasts. To feed the selfie need, and to help us take better pictures, Sony will soon release the new Xperia C3 phone which includes 5-megapixel, front-facing camera with flash.
Celebrities have embraced the selfie and use it to promote their brands (and to have some fun). At Ellen Degeneres’ request, Bradley Cooper famously snapped a selfie during the Oscars with a few friends, including Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. Degeneres tweeted the celeb-loaded photo and generated over 2 million retweets in 2 hours.
This week, however, the selfie is getting a bad wrap, at least in the sports world.
During the Tour de France, fans were attempting to snap selfies with cyclists. The only problem is that the cyclists were still on their bikes, in a race, going 40 to 60 mph. Some race fans got a little too close and created dangerous situations for both the fans and the cyclists.
Love them or hate them (or somewhere in between), it’s time to accept the selfie and to set establish some new norms for their use.
Of course, some norms for the selfie have already been established:
1. Don’t take naked selfies and send them to people (especially if you hold political office);
2. When taking a selfie, make sure you’re in a safe place (avoid cliffs and busy intersections);
3. Avoid the sexy pose. Most selfies poses are now considered out-of-style, including the wide-eyed, puckered lip shots made famous by Jersey Shore crew (also out-of-style).
But the sports-related selfies may now require new norms, and possibly some rules. For example, requiring fans to keep safe distances from athletes and celebrities has always been a rule. But resetting those boundaries for the selfie fan may be in order.
Conversely, there are new opportunities for sports teams, public relations specialists, and those who manage athletes and celebrities to create better connections for fans.
Constructing better connections means letting the fans get closer to favorite athletes and celebrities - one selfie at a time.
~ A version of this post appeared in The Vindicator, Sunday, July 13, 2014.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.