Where did the selfie craze start?

Between self-portrayal and cultivating relationships: Selfies are particularly rampant in social networks. The Marburg media scientist Jens Ruchatz explains why selfies have nothing to do with narcissism and are not all that new. By Dirk Beutel

What is a selfie anyway?

It is not a self-portrait, as is generally claimed. It is not a valid picture that sums up the respective individuality. Rather, it is a means of showing media scientist Jens Ruchatz that I am now in this situation. It is another form of communication that has to do with the conditions of Web 2.0. And there is a different approach to photography. The camera is always with you in your smartphone anyway. Photography becomes something casual, you do it on the side. It is crucial to make the photo accessible to others via social networks. Your own life is shared with others. This is relatively new, but nothing bad. In this way you can also show friends with whom you have had nothing to do for a long time what you are doing and where.

How did it all start?

The whole thing is of course related to the development of the smartphone. You have to know: The first camera phone came out in Japan about 15 years ago. Even back then with a camera that you could point at yourself, but without a display. But there was a small mirror on the device that you could use to observe yourself. So this function was planned back then.

The social networks are inundated with selfies. Some speak of an addiction. Is that true?

As a media scientist, I am skeptical. Before that one also spoke of an addiction to reading, an addiction to computer games. Certainly it cannot be ruled out that there may be addictive behavior in individual cases, but it is certainly not significant. Personally, I believe this fear is overstated.

Our DFB footballers are also crazy about selfies. Manager Oliver Bierhoff is annoyed and speaks of banalities and narcissism. Do you agree with him?

Whether selfies are banal - it may be, it is an everyday practice. I do believe that this is a generation problem. Like me, Oliver Bierhoff is a lot older than those he judges. We still experienced photography as something special, something scarce. That marks a special opportunity. Then the pictures disappeared in the photo album. But if you take a selfie, you don't need any reason at all, it's just about taking pictures of yourself in a certain situation. The narcissism accusation is well known and common. But also the thesis that the whole society we live in is narcissistic and so on. But I don't think that everyone who takes selfies is particularly in love with themselves. You want to communicate with selfies. It is a call for entertainment. In addition, showing yourself is part of individuality. It's not as pathological as some think.

Selfies are the autograph of the now, how did it come to that?

This function of the selfie or the status is not unlike that of a traditional autograph. In the past you would take a ball or a jersey with you and have it signed by your favorite soccer player. Today you take photos of yourself with your star as proof that he has noticed you and taken yourself for a while. It's the same with the autograph. The difference is that an autograph usually ends up in a collection and selfies are published on social networks.

Holiday selfie, fitness selfie, sexy selfie: has the selfie trend reached its peak, or is there more to come?

It's hard to say if anything new can be done with selfies. In the meantime, one could in fact assume that every situation, every place has been exhausted. It is interesting that this trend emerged from the Internet, as it has produced many new names, forms and genres in the past.

Selfies are also self-presentation. Images of the beautiful life of others not only create enthusiasm, but also blasphemy and envy. Can photos trigger this effect?

Effect is too strong a word. Selfies set communication in motion. The photo is first liked on Facebook, so you have taken note of it. This is usually followed by comments like: “That's nice. Where are you right now? ”Which can lead to a new topic of conversation. The situation is discussed. Envy or blasphemy can also happen in the schoolyard or in the office. But with most selfies, they are usually only shown to a certain group of friends. The people who use social networks and take selfies use the existing shelters. I believe that they know exactly, they are aware of what they are revealing to whom about themselves. So I would speak of individual cases in which envy or other negative things arise.

Speaking of which: selfies don't have a long half-life.

That's right, that goes for digital snipster photography in general. You shoot photos until the memory is full, then what you might look at in ten years' time is sorted out. Filtering then only takes place later. The expiration date of casual photography is short, yes. Most of them disappear very quickly or get lost in the crowd, except for the really special shots, like with a star. Overall, however, this trend will remain and develop in some form. At most the intensity will decrease.

Have you ever taken a selfie of yourself?

Yes, but I usually look tight. I am definitely lacking practice.