If one word speaks volumes about recent 21st century western society then it is ‘selfie’. Selfies, along with Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and horsemeat, seemed to be everywhere and in everything in 2013, so much so that Oxford Dictionaries elected selfie last year’s ‘Word of the Year’ based on its popularity.
The No Make-Up selfie craze in aid of cancer charities has brought them to the fore again this month, and reports say the hashtag #selfie was used almost 35 million times last year alone.
So whether you like the idea of them or not, people are doing it in their droves, in fact you’ve probably done it. I know I have.
For something so widespread, the selfie has a bad reputation. What makes the selfie so socially unacceptable, so prone to eye rolls, is that they are innately egotistic, narcissistic and let’s face it — vain. Lately though, the self-involved selfie has been forced to share the limelight, to squeeze over and make room in the shot for one more. Introducing — the couplie.
The couplie is quite simply, a selfie for two. On the whole, the pair pictured is a romantic couple, but you can also take a couplie with your kid, your friend, or your mum — just as long as there are two of you, you’ve taken it yourself, and posted it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Blame Kylie Minogue, who took a shot with her hairdresser in November last year with the hashtag couplie, leading to a surge in its online presence. One survey reported a 140% post-Kylie rise in its usage online, and apparently couplies began to pop up on personalised Christmas cards at the end of 2013 too. Search for couplie on Twitter and reams of tweets appear, so like them or loathe them, it seems the couplie is now officially a thing.
An optimist could look at the couplie as less ‘me me me’ version of the selfie; a pessimist, however, might view pictures of honeymooning couples posing on sandy beaches with champagne glasses in hand and a Sienna filter twice as offensive. If you’re not sure which camp you fall in to there is plenty of evidence provided by celebrity ‘couplies’ to consider. Scott Disick and Kourtney Kardashian, Nicole Richie and Joel Madden, Professor Green and Millie Mackintosh, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Michelle Keegan and Mark Wright, Olivia Palermo and Johannes Huebl and Marvin and Rochelle Humes have all jumped on the couplie bandwagon. It’s not just reality TV stars and celebrities who are at it, at Nelson Mandela’s funeral Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt snapped a couplie with David Cameron and Barack Obama (although maybe ‘pollie’ might be a more appropriate term where politicians are involved).
The strange thing is while couplies might sound terribly modern there is nothing new in the world about them. In the 90s, we were all snapping pre-historic versions of the couplie in the back row of the school bus on school tours, or at Oasis concert with our boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend. They only difference is we were taking them on crummy disposable cameras. After handing them into the chemist, waiting 48 hours (which seemed fast) and spending all your pocket money on having them developed, they usually came out exposed, 80% dark or with a big thumb over someone’s face, but you still blu-tacked them to your wall. The only thing that has changed is the technology that with one touch of a button now lets you see both your mugs as you snap, retake as many times as you like, pop a filter on it and upload your image to a virtual wall, all in less than a minute.
Remember the people who forced you to sit through an hour-long slideshow of their holiday to Disneyland, or to watch their entire shaky wedding ceremony home video? They are the same culprits clogging your Facebook feeds with couplies.
Like all social media trends, expect a proliferation of selfies, couplies and variations on the theme (there are already groupies, daties, doublies and even felfies — pictures of farmers and their livestock) before they become obsolete, just like MySpace, poking and Bebo before them.
Before the couplie hashtag is completely exhausted, we could be subjected to ‘Elfies’ at Christmas, ‘Relfies’ with your gran or even ‘Welfies’ with wads of cash. Actually, the death of the couplie might have already been foretold. A-list hairdresser Harry Josh says that if you see a newsreader sporting the new ‘it’ haircut, then the trend is already dead, so surely when politicians are taking couplies, the same rule applies. So it might be time to prepare for the next incarnation of the couplie, whatever it be. Lord helpie us.