“Selfie” has been voted Word of the Year 2013. This phenomenon refers to smartphone self-portraits that get shared on the web: it was quite a buzz in 2013, and is still so in 2014. The word etymology comes from the term “self”, and is associated with the suffix “ie”, which confers a friendlier, even affectionate meaning. According to Oxford Dictionaries statistics, the word “selphie”, or “selfie”, rose by + 17,000 % in a year. [1]

"Selfie" – the phenomenon

Whether selfies are anonymous, or from politicians – such as Obama, Cameron and Thorning-Schmidt’s at Nelson Mandela’s funerals – and stars, staging oneself is fashionable, and is also facilitated by the evolution of new technologies. Kim Kardashian even offers a few tips to get the “perfect selfie” in a few simple steps, including the famous “duck face”.

A few experts are wondering about this phenomenon, which mostly concerns youngsters, and is described as “the marker of a new technical age of self-portrait”. Such portraits used to be ordered by artists; now they are easily available to each and every one of us, and give the possibility to share one’s mood or personality and establish a true exchange.

Today, taking “selfies” has become part of our daily lives. A survey released last October and conducted by IPSOS/Association for self-promotion showed the importance of staging oneself. When French people are asked for what purpose they practise digital photography, 48 % answer: “to take a picture of myself and get staged”.
This propensity even reaches 61 % for the 15-29. [2]

"Selfie" and beauty

While a few are getting worried about such a phenomenon and compare it to the rise of narcissism, others see a metamorphosis of visual standards. In a recent article published in the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, André Gunter talks about “conversational aesthetics”, because the idea “is not to be good-looking, but rather to take part in an activity that came to be fashionable through social networks. It is all about creating a new visual standard. There is no need to be good-looking, the point is not to make a work of art: the image is supposed to produce interaction and conversation”. [3]

What if the Selfie phenomenon was about to redefine beauty standards towards a more singular, unconventional beauty which would differ from that of magazine icons? This is the question asked by Dove in a documentary shot for the Sunday Film Festival, and broadcast on January 20, 2014. The brand announces in its release that “social media offer an opportunity to create one’s own medium, customize beauty and influence exchanges on the matter”. More than 55 % of women, according to Dove’s survey, think social media play a more significant role than traditional ones in what they call “beauty conversation”. [4]

This new film is faithful to Dove’s “campaigns for real beauty”, as it puts self-esteem forward (10th anniversary this year), and shows how self-image influences one’s acceptance of a different, non-perfect beauty. It also invites all women to share their own vision of beauty on Twitter #Beautyls.

Are selfies redefining the standards of beauty and femininity? Food for thoughts!