I've been on the Internet for 20 of the 25 years it's been around. That doesn't mean I've gone along with all its trends, though. I'm proud to say that I have never once used "LOL" or any variation in an online or offline conversation. While I might shy away from using some acronyms, I embrace the spirit of others. I was pretty brazen in shattering the taboo of meeting an online friend IRL back when an Internet connection was still established with a dial tone.
There's one piece of Internet culture that I have had a love/hate relationship with for many years: The selfie. Now some of the younger folks reading this may be thinking, "Years? You mean like 2011?" No, actually.
Despite what you may have been led to believe by BuzzFeed, selfies have been around for quite some time on the web. They were shared in countless AOL and IRC chat rooms long before there was Instagram to make us look all Valencia-lit. So what's the difference between Selfie 1.0 and this iteration, other than the obvious ubiquity of technology? "Self-awareness" is one word to use, but a more apt one is probably "narcissism."
Back in my day (yeah, I did just write that), exchanging digital photos of yourself was a challenge. There was no such thing as a camera on your phone, so the only way to fulfil requests for pics from the likes of users with names like "SpringDay8764" would be with a very crude, very first-generation web camera. Selfies were a necessary evil and the most important thing was to make them look like you hadn't taken them yourself. How things have changed since then.
The selfie phenomenon transcends age – you see just as many on social media from the likes of the President of the United States as you do from your average tween or teen. Predicting the death of Internet trends is a heralded pastime, and there's no shortage of opinions when it comes to selfies. They've been called liberating but they've also been called out as a symptom of low self-esteem. And they've even been blamed for an uptick in head lice.
Now we come to the selfie's latest victory: Sunday's Oscars telecast, where instead of Seth MacFarlane's musical ode to boobs, we had this year's host Ellen DeGeneres issue a challenge to the second-screeners watching at home, urging them to make a selfie featuring her, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, and a few other folks the most retweeted of all tweets. To do it, they'd have to beat Barack Obama's 2012 tweet celebrating his re-election, which had just over 700,000 retweets.
It turns out Ellen's challenge was nothing of the sort, because what shall now be known as "apex selfie" has, as of this writing, got well over 3 million retweets. Not only did Ellen likely prevent the selfie from ever dying, she instantaneously brought it to a new, previously unfathomable level of legitimacy and prestige. I know I'll never be able to look at another selfie of Kim Kardshian's ass without thinking: "We can do better. We have done better!"
So, while I still may be self-conscious when it comes to taking pictures of myself, the rest of the planet clearly is not. And with one moment of inspiration, Ellen may have just become the Internet's first Ambassador of Selfie Relations.