Get Your Selfie On

SelfieCity is a data visualization tool analyzing 3200 selfies taken by people in 5 cities across the globe, then grouped by the city they were taken in (New York, Berlin, Moscow, Sao Paolo, Bankok).  The analyzed lots of different aspects, like age, facial expressions, glasses / no glasses, head tilt, etc:

SelfieCity dashboard
They started the project with 120,000 randomly selected photos and used Mechanical Turk workers to help classify them.  Stats of interest:

1. Only ~4% of photos taken are selfies
a. This is way lower than the ~20% that I would have guessed

2. Significantly more women take selfies
a. 61% of selfies in NYC, 82% of selfies in Moscow

3. Young people take selfies (duh)
a. Oldest average age of selfie takers was 27.6 in NYC

4. Women strike extreme poses in selfies (double-duh)
a. Average angle of head-tilt was 50% greater for women

The takeaway:  IF YOU ARE A GROWN MAN, STOP TAKING SELFIES.  Science has spoken.

As laughable, naval-gazing and ridiculous as I find selfies, their rise to prominence is fascinating to me.  The LA Times called 2013 “the year of the selfie“, after the Oxford English Dictionary chose “selfie” as word of the year. The New Yorker wrote 900 words on “The Return of the Selfie“, and there are even graduate theses being written about them.

The best thoughts I’ve read on the topic were from Stephen Marche in Esquire, where he wrote:

For all of human history, and even into human prehistory, making an image was an act that required not just conscious thought but immense effort. That’s why a picture was something removed from ordinary life — images possessed sacred properties, special auras and powers. The camera made the image much simpler to make of course, but it didn’t remove the consciousness of the act. Taking photographs required expensive machinery and skill… The leap in the ease of taking and disseminating images from the year 2000 to the present is as great as the leap from drawing in caves to the year 2000. And yet we still think of photographs as if they require effort, as if they were conscious works of creation. That’s no longer true. Photographs have become like talking. The rarity of imagery once made it a separate part of life. Now it’s just life. It is just part of the day.

I’m fascinated by whether selfies are trend that will peter out, or become so commodified that they’re no longer cool (“Nice selfie, MOM!”).  Or, maybe they’ll continue on their current trend, and 2 years from now, the only photos that can be taken by cameras are selfies.  If the frame doesn’t contain at least one person making duck-face, the camera won’t function.