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A Short History of the Selfie [Infographic]

Short History of the Selfie


On a recent flight to visit family, I gave my 3-year-old my iPhone for entertainment.  She’s got a page on the phone devoted specifically to apps and games just for her (I highly recommend the PBS app).  She’s been able to navigate her way around the phone since she became strong enough to hold it.

She didn’t play games however and I was surprised to discover she had learned a new skill:  The art of the selfie. Instead of navigating to her game page, she turned the camera on and snapped about 50 photos just like this one in just a minute or two.

The selfie is clearly a cultural trend. The term made the cover of Time in 2012, was acknowledged by Oxford Dictionary in 2013, and there have been more than 1.8 million mentions of “selfie” across news, blogs and social media according to a search I conducted using IQ Media, a monitoring platform, in 2014. Even the Pope has gotten in on the selfie.

IQ Media selfie

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In an effort to tap that trend, Sony launched the CN2 “PROselfie smartphone earlier this year and has since announced CN3 model it calls “the world’s best selfie smartphone.”  The company published an infographic, which I first spotted on All Twitter and republished below, provides a “history” of the selfie.

Selfie statistics

Here are a few of the data points that jumped out at me:

  • 1839 the selfie is born. According to the infographic, the first known self-portrait was created by Robert Cornelius in 1839.  Skeptical, I dug into this a bit looking for credible links and this does appear to be true: “The image in question was taken in 1839 by an amateur chemist and photography enthusiast from Philadelphia named Robert Cornelius. Cornelius had set his camera up at the back of the family store in Philadelphia. He took the image by removing the lens cap and then running into frame where he sat for a minute before covering up the lens again.”
  • Selfie first used on Flickr in 2004.  An early social photo site, Flickr was first in on the selfie, but the site has struggled to keep up over the last decade: “Unfortunately, the rise of smartphones, and the subsequent fall of dedicated cameras, led to a decline in Flickr’s utility.”
  • Selfie statistics. About half of all adults admit to taking selfies, though women take 1.3 more selfies than men. Selfies are 38% more likely to be “liked” on Facebook and 32% more likely to earn comments. Manhattan, Miami and Anaheim are the top US cities for selfie and rank #2, #3 and #4 on the world-wide top 10 list.

Whether you admire or detest the selfie, it’s clearly a trend to which smart marketers pay attention.  Sony has bet a product on it and my own employer has tied a selfie effort to a scholarship program.  How are you using selfies in marketing?

Additional reading:

Here’s the complete infographic:

infographic history Selfie

Disclosure:  IQ Media has provided me with access to its service at no cost and without restriction. I am using the platform for research purposes in support of my own personal writing; no money has traded hands and no obligations have been made.

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