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The evolution of the selfie: how our much-mocked photos have matured

Against all odds, the selfie has evolved from an embarrassing teenage trend into a modern phenomenon. Now, some experts are beginning to see them as a good thing

Few 21st-century trends have been as thoroughly maligned as the selfie, the digital self-portrait snapped at arm’s length on a smartphone. But since around 2013, when the word received the seal of approval from Oxford Dictionaries, the debate over what these images reveal about modern life has softened and shifted. It’s no longer smart to condemn them as proof that an entire generation are narcissists. Now experts – including art historians and psychologists – argue that selfies perform important social functions.

“When I see a selfie, I see people trying to make connections in an increasingly impersonal world,” says art historian James Hall, author of The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History. “They are trying to identify themselves, to reinvent themselves, as self-portraitists throughout history have sought to do.”

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