Me, myselfie and I: Is the selfie set to stay?
Ahead of the release of Kim Kardashian's coffee table book of her own selfies, Vicki Notaro wonders how much life is left in this snap-happy craze
Who doesn't like a good selfie? Let's be honest, anyone who says they hate them has just probably never taken a very good one.
Yes, it's a bit much when people upload three a day, every day, but that's just poor online etiquette - not the selfie's fault. I've always been a fan, and have been taking them since the day I worked out how to turn a digital camera around and point it at my face more than 15 years ago.
God, I even took a selfie with a llama last Sunday - not because it was pretty, but because it was hilarious. Selfies mean different things to different people at different times - they can be flattering, fun and in some cases, even headline-making.
A lot of said cases relate to Kim Kardashian West, who has taken the concept of the selfie and run with it to the point where next week, she releases a coffee table book filled solely with images of herself.
With the launch of her tome Selfish mere days away, the internet is awash with the reality star, business woman and media mogul's greatest Instagram hits.
"Kim's top tips for taking the best selfies!" scream headlines on women's websites. "Kim shows us never before seen pics!" bellow the gossip blogs.
For a woman who's mocked relentlessly and constantly vilified for simply daring to exist, it's fascinating that people care this much about a coffee table book filled solely with her self-portraits. Both Kardashian and the selfie are endlessly derided for being shallow, self-obsessed and vain, but it seems there is a lot of power in them coming together in print form, and of course, money to be made.
But at what point will selfie culture peak, and turn ugly? With the publication of this book, have we reached a turning point?
Kim is her own muse, and the public are as obsessed with her image as they are with capturing their own.
This is the woman who released a "belfie" (that's bum selfie) to prove to the world that she had gotten her figure back post-pregnancy, so it makes sense in a way that the person who wanted to #BreakTheInternet with her buttocks would be the same person to release such a product. Kim Kardashian may not have invented the word selfie (that honour belongs to a drunken Australian back in 2002), but she has certainly pioneered it.
In an early episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians circa 2008, before iPhones were ubiquitous, Kim is chastised by her mother Kris Jenner for taking selfies (with a digital camera, how old school) during a difficult time for the family.
As Kim pouts, preens and duck faces for the camera, you can hear her mother sharply reprimand her "Kim, stop taking pictures of yourself, your sister is going to jail."
If only Jenner knew what was to come - that Kim would become the official queen of the selfie, and that her youngest daughter Kylie, then only 10 years old, would have teens the world over sucking on shot glasses in an attempt to emulate the picture perfect pout she posts in selfies every day.
Kim and the selfie rose to prominence at the same time, aided and abetted by social media.
Their popularity and power has grown simultaneously at a staggering rate, so much so that Kim has been declared one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2015 (they dubbed her the queen of #fame), and was just last week honoured at Variety's Power of Women event in New York City.
It seems her journey from reality TV airhead (and home movie porn star) to legitimate A-lister and fashion darling is nearing completion, while the selfie has long been legitimised - it was declared word of the year in 2014, is in every dictionary you can think of (yes, even the Oxford English) and has spawned a rake of accessories that make it even easier for users to take the perfect selfie.
Say what you like about Kardashian, love her or loathe her, but hers is the face that launched a billion selfies.
With flawless skin, perfect bone structure and the kind of make-up that has women begging cosmetic companies to take their money, Kim and the selfie are a perfect match. She knows her angles, knows what her fans want and can give it to them directly via her own Twitter and Instagram accounts, no PR machine necessary.
But with the release of this book, declared by Kardashian's own publishers to be akin to Andy Warhol's pop art for a new generation, have we reached peak selfie?
Have we reached the limits as a society when it comes to this form of self-preservation, and are we now on a downward spiral where the term is concerned?
It certainly feels that way when you look around.
This week, there were countless paparazzi shots on the newswire of people taking selfies amongst the rubble of Nepal's tragic earthquake.
Teenagers are distorting their faces using suction devices in a quest for bigger lips.
Celebrities including Kim, Beyonce Knowles and Lindsay Lohan have been accused of Photoshopping their selfies to make themselves appear thinner and even more perfect, and women everywhere are "perfecting" their selfies using apps designed to smooth skin, hide eye bags and even narrow your nose.
This week I got a press release from the brand TK Maxx declaring that Irish adults spend €14 million a year to "insta-proof" their wardrobe - the insinuation being that mere mortals are now subject to the celebrity culture of 'never been seen in the same outfit twice'.
Apparently, 17pc of Irish people over the age of 18 are concerned about being tagged repeating a piece of clothing, and are spending money to avoid this.
What kind of world are we living in where this is the norm? That the site of a natural disaster is a photo op, that our faces need to be perfected before the world can see them, that we're worried about wearing the same top more than once?
According to Conor Lynch, CEO of SocialMedia.ie, selfies won't peak because they're not just a passing trend. "For centuries wealthy families commissioned artists to create self-portraits.
"There are currently over 264,045,444 posts with the hashtag selfie only on Instagram and this is growing. Capturing a self-portrait is part of the DNA of this generation which loves documenting and sharing their lives."
And as you might imagine like with anything popular in the Digital Age, selfies are being used by brands in a similar way to hashtags and sponsored tweets.
Michelle Keegan selfie
"Selfies have been monetised by companies engaging with people who create user-generated content," explains Lynch. "People are now turning themselves into brands by producing creative selfies and getting brands to appear on their profiles as advertising. Some of the biggest international social media influencers now charge €60,000 per post and even higher if you are a Kardashian."
Sean Earley, Head of Creative at digital PR agency New Slang agrees. "Selfies have come a long way from the famous Oscars photo Ellen DeGeneres took at the 2014 Academy Awards, and even the Commander Hadfield selfie in space, and we don't think they'll be going away.
"With songs, TV shows and even books all dedicated to selfies, even if you're not a fan, there'll be no escaping it.
"It's no wonder brands have moved to capitalise on this popular consumer behaviour. Asking followers to share a selfie on social media to enter competitions has become the new 'Like and Comment' that was prevalent on Facebook.
"It's only a matter of time before talent management agencies integrate a 'price-per-selfie' fixture into contracts with celeb brand ambassadors."
Perhaps Kim's book is not a peak, but a sign of the times. As a Kardashian admirer (informed, but still intrigued), I might even be tempted to buy Kim's book because like many millions of people, I love to look at her and marvel at her world.
And if you ever want to know what's going to stick around for years to come, just look at the next generation. How many toddlers do you know already eagerly snapping selfies?
With the Kardashians, it appears the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree - Kim's two-year-old daughter is apparently "obsessed" with taking them too.
"I noticed the Photo Booth on my computer, there were all these selfies of her that she doesn't realise she's taking, but she presses it. It's so funny," said Kim at Variety's Power of Women luncheon. "So we do take lots of pictures together."
If North's selfie game remains strong in future, perhaps Kim won't crop her daughter out of any future posts.