It's been about eight months since selfie officially gained status as the 2013 Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year, and the selfie game is stronger than ever. I suppose we will never lose interest in gazing into ourselves at arm's length and then submitting that image to friends and strangers on the internet. But now that the selfie has secured a truly unshakable role in our digitally #blessed culture, other inane takes on the self-portrait are attempting to ride on the selfie's coattails—the "pelfie" (pet selfie) and the belfie (butt selfie) among others. But damn people, tacking an "ie" at the end of a word doesn't make it a thing. Nope, they're just selfie spinoffs, they're not particularly groundbreaking, and they're getting out of goddamn control.
Today's AP Big Story featured a write-up about the "Usie" (or Ussie)—that is, a group selfie, for us. As Beth J. Harpaz reports:
"Usies are a growing trend that I think have far more social value than selfies," said Michal Ann Strahilevitz, a professor of marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco who studies consumer behavior. "It's magical capturing moments we share with other people."
In contrast to one-person selfies, usies are "more about the relationship, and less about you and your hair," she said.
I understand that Ellen DeGeneres's Oscar selfie (presented by Samsung) melted everyone's face and Twitter feed, but an usie? Really? That is the most redundant statement regarding a photograph of multiple people I may have ever read. It's straight up farcical that we are not allowed to take a damn picture of ourselves without it being some kind of medication commercial-style outburst of *magical share-worthy togetherness.* That's sort of what the concept of a photograph of people is AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN SINCE THE DAWN OF PHOTOGRAPHY.
But who knows? Maybe specifying sub-selfies is more about easily identifying and categorizing pictures on Instagram and on Twitter, rather than merely finding an excuse to attach a twee suffix to random words. And it's not like group selfies can't be empowering. I'm not really one for selfies myself (though I took a really important one last night), so I really can't imagine myself in a situation that requires me to denote which selfies were taken with friends, pets, and/or my ass.
For some reason, however, it seems more likely that all the cute sub-selfies simply play into the exponential fascination of having power over our image. We will always get a kick out of taking pictures of ourselves, and it's really impacting our culture. I mean, there is such a thing as selfie etiquette. Microsoft is allegedly going to release a Selfie Phone. (There's even an app that makes you wait an hour after taking a photo while the picture "develops" before you can see it as a rebellion of sorts against the instant gratification of taking digital pictures.) People are ditching their black cats and dogs because they don't photograph well in selfies, which is both shallow and the absolute worst. In a small way, we are starting to value things based on how they can contribute to image, and it's a little scary. (Only a matter of time before we mass-jettison those ugly-ass babies that simply don't have what it takes for a selfie.)
It just goes to show that when it comes to portraiture, we might not be reinventing the wheel, but we're definitely rebranding it. And by rebranding, I mean beating the crap out of a dead…wheel. But alas, having hit optimum spectacle in which we can all be eager creators and consumers, apparently redundancy will always be a more suitable option than FOMO. Or MOMO. So let's cut that shit out, and stop the Usie before it's too late, and all photos of more than one person become enthusiastic declaration of US-HOOD. Can we please just let photos be photos?
Image via Shutterstock.