LAST_UPDATESun, 22 Apr 2018 10pm

Selfie: A Cool Global Trend?

Najib selfie pictures with Susilo Bambang uploaded in social networking sites, twitter hers. Pic: TwitterNajib selfie pictures with Susilo Bambang uploaded in social networking sites, twitter hers. Pic: TwitterIS IT possible that someone in the planet has not yet heard of the word 'Selfie'? 2014 is just around the corner and the word has been hailed as the best word of 2013 by the Oxford Dictionary.

The popularity of 'selfie' is unparalled. Oxford claims that the word has seen usage of almost 150 million times a month. Last year alone, the word, which is a simplistic shortform of "self-potrait" has seen a growth of 17,000 percent.

Who would have thought a non-scientific, most casual reference to recreational photography can be that important of a word?  

Selfie words that were hailed as the most popular word of 2013. Pic: blog.oxforddictionaries.comSelfie words that were hailed as the most popular word of 2013. Pic: blog.oxforddictionaries.comDo you know the story behind 'selfie'?

Interestingly, the word selfie was actually first used in 2002 - well, this was well before today's proliferation of cheap front-facing camera handphones - in an online forum in Australia.

Since then, the narcisstic tendency to document one's self at every opportunity had become rampant, growing almost in tandem with the exponential increase in global social network dependency.  

The act of raising your smartphone camera and tilting it at an angle just above the eyeline has become as natural to the human body as walking.

Seeking for attention, teenagers armed with iPhones and Androids with zero regard for ideal camera angles started uploading their bathroom and bedroom poses, for the world to see.

What's more surprising and unexpected is that government dignitaries are also starting to get caught up in the phenomenon.

Even our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is no exception, as he is often seen displaying candid selfie snapshots with international figures such as President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and also with the President of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong.

Artists are naturally in it as much as any celebrity, always wanting to take the work out of the hands of paparazzis, taking candid low resolution snapshots on their own as shown by the country's number one sweetheart, Datuk Siti Nurhaliza Taruddin, that she was crowned as the country's "Selfie Queen".

Siti Nurhaliza. Pic: Pic: www.limauais.comSiti Nurhaliza. Pic: Pic: www.limauais.comSiti spared no expense in using the smartphone technology and posting it in her Instagram account, uploading as many impromptu selfies as possible, all in the name of pleasing her adoring male fans.

Are selfies desperate attempts to sell oneself? Is it cool for politicians to do it too?

Khaleda Khairuddin, 22, considers selfies among her peers in the social media as a desperate attempt to seek universal acknowledgement of one's self.

"I'm really annoyed with selfies. They seem to do it as a way to be seen as worthy of being photogenic, by posing and doing exaggerated expressions. I think it is unbecoming for young people, particularly students, to behave.

She said such attempts reflect the narrow mindset of people who lack maturity because it is wrong for every person to assume that he or she is photogenic.

"They seek attention and appraisal, which is not wrong but I think the methods they employ is improper," she told mD.

Michell Woo, 31, agrees with Khaleda.

"Despite of this, selfies are usually more popular among teens, and I think they're just 'testing the market' or are just having fun with themselves.

"But when done often enough, it does become annoying - particularly for those celebs who upload their instant photos every five minutes," she said, laughing.

According to Michell, it is different when VIPs do it because it gets them closer to the public-at-large by making their personality appear more unguarded, interesting and candid.

"You know, it's cool to see the Prime MInister doing selfies," said the approving selfie-hater.

Selfie: The Result Of A Hidden Personality Disorder?

Though it may annoy some people, it seems to be relatively harmless because it is found to have no lasting effects to the community at large.

President of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, together with PM Najib. Pic: sayaiday.blogspot.comPresident of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, together with PM Najib. Pic: sayaiday.blogspot.comBut experts in behaviour research say it may still provide a negative impact on certain groups.

Psychiatry and Psychology Consultant Dr Wan Mohd Rushidi Wan Mahmud said people who like to do selfies show that they are narcisstic.

He said people with personality disorders show traits that they need constant praise and admiration from others, and they believe that they are special and deserve a place in the community.

"They are also envious of other people's successes, arrogant and have no empathy for others," revealed Dr Rushidi.

He also said that there is another type of personality, one which is often associated with histerionic personality disorder (HPD).

HPD is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a personality disorder characterised by a pattern of excessive emotions and attention-seeking, including inappropriately seductive behavior and an excessive need for approval, usually beginning in early adulthood.

However, Dr Rushidi said it's too early to draw conclusions, to link these selfies with self revolution, that is by wanting other people's recognition, or to even conclude that they have personality disorders.

"Selfie is considered as the latest 'in' thing. Like any other social media (applications), we have to be careful not to reach a point where it will start to interfere with our daily social function, activities, work and so on. If it does, then surely it must be stifled because it can bring harm to self, family and community.

President Obama is shown taking a picture alongside Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron, in JohannesburgPresident Obama is shown taking a picture alongside Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron, in JohannesburgIn fact, according to Dr Rushidi, the pictures taken also plays a role. If it goes beyond the limits of decency that can be accepted and tolerated by society, it is feared that it may bring various adverse implications to the individuals concerned.

For example, the recent news of US President Barack Obama taking selfies at Nelson Mandela's funeral ceremony has given rise to various interpretations and questions of whether it is appropriate or respectful to do such a thing in sombre situations.

The selfie phenomenon may be acceptable if it is done within certain morally acceptable limits, as long as it does not bring trouble or harm to themselves or others.

It's premature to label it as a form of personality disorder, especially when it is done by great leaders although the signs are there among those who do it.

One thing's for sure, selfies will be a hard habit to break.