Move aside autographs, selfies become cultural phenomenon

Kolkata, Dec 22: Clicking selfies became an urban cultural phenomenon in India during 2014 leaving autographs outdated. Whether it was about flaunting a new hairstyle, telling the world about a brush with a celebrity, a party with friends or visit to a landmark place, clicking selfies was the choice of millions.

When superstar Shah Rukh Khan visited St Xavier's College campus in Kolkata to promote his film "Happy New Year", no one thrusted pen and paper before him for an autograph.


Instead the ubiquitous phone was pushed near his face for a click which was immediately shared on the Facebook profiles of students. Australian cricketing legend Shane Warne was among the first one to pronounce the death of autographs.

In May, he tweeted, "After doing 5 selfies with people this morning before 8am on my morning run/walk I've come to the conclusion that the autograph is dead!".

A rage across age groups, the cultural phenomenon influenced people from all walks of life - politicians, filmstars, sportsmen, ordinary folks and even the Pope.

During the 16th Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi led the trend as his selfies after voting, meeting his mother, etc went viral with a huge number of re-tweets. Selfies, which mean a self-portrait photograph, became the best medium of self-expression as it promoted a culture of self-love and individual identities.

Selfies of inked fingers after voting were popular across social networking sites. At convocations across IITs, IIMs and other universities, toppers clicking themselves with their medals.

Selfie-phones having high-resolution front-facing cameras with and those having a 90-degree wide angle were in demand.

Data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India states that there were more than 95 crore telephone subscribers in India by the end of September.

Brands were also not left behind in encashing the trend as campaigns revolving around selfies became the coolest way to connect with the youth.

Declared the 2013 word of the year by Oxford Dictionary, selfie is believed to have coined by an Australian university student in 2002.

But with the rise of the social networking medium and the high penetration of smartphones, the trend caught up only recently.

The craze in India mirrored the global scene. In the Oscar ceremony, host Ellen DeGeneres took a group selfie with A-listers like Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey.

With two million re-tweets it created a world record. UK reported heavy demand for selfie-sticks' that allow camera phones to be extended up to a metre away for group shots and panoramic images.

The craze went beyond humans as a monkey snatched camera from British nature photographer David Slater and ended up clicking selfies which went viral globally.

The selfie trend also threw up awkward moments as tourists posed for insensitive photographs outside the cafe in Sydney where gunmen had held people hostage.

Even in Haj, conservative clerics raised their voices against posing in front of the holy site during the annual pilgrimage.

Many other critics dismiss selfies for promoting a social behaviour of narcissism and self-obsession.


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