Since the word ‘selfie’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary last year, the self-portrait has taken on a new life in pop culture and visual media. Today there are over 150 million ‘selfie’-tagged images on Instagram and it’s estimated that more than a million mobile self-portraits are taken worldwide each day.
A cornerstone of social media, the selfie has permeated the mainstream to receive mentions in popular music and television shows. Celebrities, politicians and pro athletes, meanwhile, use them to connect with the public by providing behind-the-scenes glimpses of their lives.
While the practice of taking pictures of oneself to share on social media transcends generations, selfies make up an astounding 30% of photographs taken by 18-24 year olds. As our world becomes increasingly visual and social media reigns supreme, the selfie craze shows no sign of waning. Mobile photography is flourishing as it provides a refreshing alternative to the perfected imagery of magazines, advertising and websites.
Conversely, selfies allow us to control how we present these “authentic” versions of ourselves. By choosing the most flattering angles and filters or by documenting our popularity, celebrations or travels, we’re presenting a visual ideal that exudes happiness and success. In a sense, it’s this blurring of reality and fantasy that’s driving the selfie surge – and attracting marketers.
Nearly 900 brands from Calvin Klein to Zappos are currently running selfie contests on Twitter, encouraging shoppers to shoot selfies in stores or with products – a move that hits the sweet spot of customer interaction and social sharing. Other brands are using customer selfies in print advertising and store displays, injecting a dose of reality and customer celebration into their marketing campaigns while cementing the selfie as the darling of today’s consumer-generated content.