Selfies and hashtags. They’re everywhere. I mean, self-portraits are not a new thing. The word “selfie” is quite new, as words go; Oxford’s 2013 Word of the Year first appeared online back in 2002, but the word “selfie” carries connotations beyond the simple act of self-portraiture. Selfies are now inextricably woven into the fabric of contemporary social media, usually taken at arm’s length with a mobile device of some sort, but always shared on social media, usually on multiple platforms (crossposts between instagram, facebook, and twitter being among the most common).
The cultural phenomenon of the instant-share self-portrait has been developing since the days of the myspace photo and the early years of popular access to digital photography. It’s only in the last few years, though, that the selfie has become a cultural entity, owing to increased access to higher quality mobile devices and the ubiquity of social media platforms like facebook, twitter, and instagram, social media’s current darling. And now we have this new phenomenon of the campaign selfie, the next big thing in hashtag activism, a self-portrait shared with social media for the purpose of raising awareness or expressing an opinion about a sociopolitical matter of some sort. Usually it involves holding up a sign of some kind. Everyone’s doing it. Even Michelle Obama.