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Selfies become a snapshot of changing times

Updated: 2014-01-03 15:58
By Ni Wei (

“Selfie” is the Oxford English Dictionary’s “word of the year” but despite its rise in usage it denotes a type of behavior that still falls short of full acceptability. comments that “it is arguably one of the most embarrassing phenomena of the digital age".

Even a cursory examination of the most memorable selfies of the year will lead to the conclusion that this word means more than merely self-portraits.

One selfie that raised eyebrows involved Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Denamrk’s prime minister, taking a selfie flanked by US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minster David Cameron. That picture went viral with netizens asking whether it was appropriate for the selfie to be taken at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela.

Selfies become a snapshot of changing times
Danish prime minister Helle-Thorning Schmidt poses for a ‘selfie’ with David Cameron and Barack Obama at the Nelson Mandela memorial service, while Michelle Obama looks on. [Photo / AFP]

This raises an important question. Is it appropriate to take a selfie at such an event?

The selfie, as such, is not the issue. Millions of people take them every day but the context in which they are taken does matter.

Another selfie that made the news involved the pope taking one with several teenagers in August.

Selfies become a snapshot of changing times
The selfie of Pope Francis and several teenagers.

The pope is keen to promote a more open image than that normally associated with protocol and his selfie showed that an action once considered firmly in the domain of the young had jumped the generational barriers. This highlights an interesting development

Knowledge and experience were passed down generation to generation by our ancestors.

In the digital age, technology-savvy kids take more initiatives to create. The trend of passing down from older to younger is, somewhat, reversed as the young create now and pass upward.

The pope deciding to take a selfie with teens showed he was “young at heart” but the selfie is not exclusively for teens any more.

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