Everyone from new BFFs the Obamas and the Clintons, to Joe Blog and almost every narcissistic celebrity under the sun, has been guilty of pulling a shameless “selfie” at one time or another.
And now the digital self-portrait, taken at varying flattering angles and with varying degrees of success, has been declared word of the year for 2013, according to Britain’s Oxford University Press.
Researchers behind the renowned Oxford Dictionaries pick a prominent word or expression each year that best reflects the mood of the times; meaning 2013 has been officially named the year for ultimate self-gratification.
Previous winners of the prestigious award include “GIF” in the US last year (for those of you who don’t know, GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, or image files that are compressed to reduce transfer time. Not very exciting, I know, which is probably why no-one remembers it.)
“Squeezed middle” was the big winner in 2011, “refudiate” in 2010, the somewhat out of place word that no-one wants to hear – “unfriend” in 2009 – followed by the sign-of-the-times “credit crunch” in 2008, “carbon footprint” in 2007 and “carbon neutral” in 2006, with the big buzzword of 2005 being “Sudoku.” (On a side note, has it really been 8 years since Sudoku boggled our minds? It’s hard to remember a time of putting pen to paper as a means of entertainment.)
Is it just me or does this linguistic map trace the decline of the English language? What newly coined word will it be next year, given that “twerking” came a close second this year. Miley Cyrus and her ass shaking has a lot to answer for.
If you’re curious like I was, the word “selfie” first appeared over ten years ago in 2002 – which is medieval in digital time – in Australia. Ozzie English often adds the suffix “-ie” to words, such as the oft quoted ‘barbie’ for barbeque (from my immigrant experience, it’s a general rule that every Australian impersonation must include the line, “throw some ribs on the barbie” in an attempt to be authentic), or ‘tinnie’ for a can of beer. Luckily, those loveable Ozzies are endearing enough to get away with such made up words, and they’re obviously onto something as selfie beat out an incredible 150 million other words in the running that are in use each month.
In fact, Oxford usually assigns a separate word of the year to the US and to the UK, but it said “selfie” was given a blanket vote as it captured the imagination on both sides of the Atlantic. Selftacular!
Other buzzwords in the running were “showrooming” (the practice of visiting a shop to look at a product before buying it online at a lower price which, I’ll admit, I’ve never heard of although I’m guilty of. At least now I can put a name to my bargain hunting), and “Bitcoin” which is a digital currency that’s gained widespread media attention lately. “Binge-watch” was another, a verb that describes literally binging on your favourite shows in rapid succession, which Netflix can undoubtedly lay claim to. Most of us will have lost entire weekends thanks to this binging syndrome.
Other contenders ranged from “food baby” to “me time” to “f-bomb,” “sexting,” “geek chic,” “emoji,” “vom,” “fauxhawk,” “pixie cut” and “BYOD” which can have a double meaning, depending on if you’re at work or play.
Like, totes OMG.
Thankfully after all this silliness, there is a flipside. A timely new campaign is cashing in on the selfie phenomenon and turning the root of its self-absorption into a charitable endeavour.
David Guerrero, creative chairman of BBDO Guerrero, has created the “#unselfie” or a picture with a sign over your face urging people to support relief aid for the Philippines. The aim is for users to spread the photos through their social networks, while the hashtag makes it easy to see the cumulative effect of the crowdsourcing campaign.
Thankfully, to restore our faith in humanity, the project has taken off, with US Secretary of State John Kerry, activist Mia Farrow and thousands of people all around the world using the former fad for good.
According to Guerrero, who is based in Manila, there have been over 9 million impressions so far. And, he points out modestly, in his eyes it doesn’t matter which charity is promoted in these #unselfies as long as it spreads the word about how to donate in response to one of the worst natural disasters in history.
— IrishGirlinVanCity (@RachelHealyIre) November 22, 2013
We here in North America have also put a positive spin on the trend with “UNselfie” pictures of citizens doing good “unselfish” deeds.
December 3, 2013, the first Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the US, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is a day set aside beginning two years ago to remind us to give back, volunteer for a local charity or donate to a local cause.
Over 6,300 charities, corporations, politicians and foundations from around the world have come together on this day to celebrate the idea of a “compassionate movement,” with unselfish social media souls using the #UNselfie and #givingtuesday hashtags to tweet a related message.
Last year, donations tracked on #givingtuesday increased by 50% from the prior year, while average gifts increased by 25%, so maybe the world is ready for the #unselfie to be word of the year 2014.
Which one will you be sharing?