Pixlr Blog


Why Is the Selfie So Ascendant? A Barely Scientific™ Poll


When Justin Bieber posts his 76th selfie on Twitter, the world yawns. But when someone makes an app for cats to take their own selfies, something slightly insane seems to be happening. Follow that up with high-brow writers from the New Yorker writing about the selfie, and it’s clear that this #selfie #madness is a bonafide trend. But when the former First Lady and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton takes a selfie with her daughter, is it all downhill from there?

Why, exactly, are selfies so ascendant right now? If selfies date back to duck faces on Myspace, what has taken it so long to become so popular? And where will it go from here? Have we reached the selfie saturation point yet?

Take a look at this Google Trends chart that shows how searched for the word “selfie” has been over the past 9 years. You’ll quickly see that we are either about to take this trend into the stratosphere — or it’s about to crash hard after a precipitous rise.


A few theories about selfie popularity

  • It’s all about the forward-facing camera: This is a great theory that I’ve heard, and there’s probably something to it. iPhones and many other smartphones introduced the front-facing camera, and that seems to coincide directly with the rise of the selfie. A great example of technology leading culture. 
  • It’s a celebrity-driven phenomena: It does seem like a lot of celebrities are using the selfie as their own personal photo op. Showing yourself in a fashion forward pose every few weeks is a smart way to keep your hardcore fans interested — even better if gossip rags pick them up as free publicity. If celebrities weren’t helping to drive it, would it be this popular? 
  • It’s an economic thing: Simply put, in the past few years the world’s unwashed billions have quickly purchased smartphones with quite good built-in cameras, which leads to a whole lot of social networking and selfie snapping. It’s basic economics, people. Duh. 
  • It’s self portraiture reborn: There is a long history of self portraits. Maybe this is just another evolution of the form. If people are making something resembling art out of selfies, they must have some cultural value. If so, someone at some point will write a lengthy Ph.D. dissertation about it. (Can’t wait!)
  • It’s narcissism gone wild: If you subscribe to the idea that the rise of the selfie is just another sign that we’re all overly narcissistic, then you probably dismiss selfies as yet another indication of how we’re all going to Hell in a hand basket. Which means probably nothing can be done about it. 
  • It’s a generational thing: If you have to ask, you’re too old. Harsh, but what if it’s true?

But what do you think? 

We want to know what you think about selfies. No, really. We do. Share your hugs and hate for selfies. Are they yet another sign of the impending Apocalypse? Or is there something culturally significant about them? Do you take them? How often? Why? Is there a better word we should be using besides “selfie”? We’re interested in both high-brow and low-down opinions, so please take a minute out of your day to let us know why you think selfies are so ascendant — and what the future of the selfie holds. 

Take the poll here or on our special poll page

That’s the entirety of our Barely Scientific™ Selfie Poll. We’ll share the best of the best in an upcoming post with all the results. We’ll also share the best excerpts from our most interesting customers, so wow us with your witty opinions and smart remarks. If you want to take credit for your thoughts, let us know who you are in your response. 


— Eric Suesz, Pixlr community manager

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