Listen, I’ve been taking selfies since way before they were cool. When I traveled through Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji as part of a study abroad trip in 2004, I was alone, and began taking photos of myself with my digital camera in front of really awesome things to show my family what I was fortunate enough to experience. My goal was to document my trip and show how happy I was in each place (hence capturing my facial expression in a selfie). But, back then, I just called it “taking a picture of myself in front of cool things.”
Now, the selfies are all the rage since we all have “digital cameras” on our mobile devices and can quickly and easily snap a shot and upload it for all to see. The word was even added to the online dictionary and Oxford Dictionary named it 2013′s word of the year.
But, we must also understand that not all selfies are created equal. Some selfies are more exciting than others based on where you are and who joins you in the photo…and who staged it.
Recently, Ellen DeGeneres broke Twitter by posting the most shared selfie of all time. DeGeneres used her Samsung smartphone and had the likes of Bradley Cooper, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence, and others, join her in the selfie, which she took on live TV at the Oscars. After a plea to help make this post “go viral,” the post instantly gained popularity and had over over 3 million retweets. (Side note: Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan tried to beat the record by taking a selfie at this past weekend’s Academy of Country Music Awards, but it didn’t happen.)
Even though that selfie was widely shared and seemed to show the spontaneity and spirit of selfies, some were taken aback when they realized that the motivation and intention for the selfie might have not been pure. The staged selfie moment was pure, as in purely promotional, and sponsored by Samsung with hopes of gaining ground in the competitive mobile device market.
Another recent selfie that gained traction was presidential – as in it featured President Obama. As President Obama welcomed the World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox, to the White House last week, Red Sox player, David Ortiz, snapped a selfie of him and President Obama with his Samsung device and tweeted, “What an honor, thanks for the #selfie @BarakObama.” The tweet was retweeted by fans and by Samsung’s official Twitter account.
The only problem was that this selfie didn’t have such pure intention either – turns out that Samsung helped Ortiz grab the shot and the two used the time in the spotlight stage the selfie and gain visibility for the mobile device maker. Not a problem if Samsung is a paid sponsor of an event, but when it comes to the president, different rules apply and the White House wasn’t too happy with the use of the photo.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told The Wall Street Journal, “As a rule the White House objects to attempts to use the president’s likeness for commercial purposes…And we certainly object in this case.” Yikes.
Although catching a famous or powerful person in a selfie is exciting, looks like these staged selfies can take it a bit too far. And I wonder if President Obama was taken aback when his fun moment with Ortiz turned out to be more than just a spontaneous snap.
The Selfie Obsession: Did Samsung Go Too Far?