Long ago, in a time before iPhones and selfie sticks, the only way to snap a photo of yourself was to stop a kind-looking stranger and optimistically hand over your disposable camera.
Having emerged from these dark ages in a somewhat narcissistic fashion, the world is now full of people switching on their front cameras and doing the deed themselves, striking pose after pose in an endless stream of do-overs.
But sometimes, when the filter is on and the lighting just right, a selfie can be truly inspirational.
Take space selfies for example — photos so unbelievable and so extraordinary that looking at one reminds you how far mankind has progressed in the past handful of years, and wonder how far we have yet to go.
Consider the backdrop of limitless space astronauts have to work with and it’s no surprise they started taking selfies before anyone had even coined the phrase.
Contrary to popular belief, it was actually Buzz Aldrin who took the first space selfie in 1966 during the Gemini 12 mission. There have been many since, some using the visor of another astronaut’s helmet as a mirror, but it wasn’t until 2012 people started to sit up and take notice when Aki Hoshide’s spacewalk selfie went viral after Commander Chris Hadfield uploaded it to his Twitter account.
This year, astronaut Steve Swanson followed suit when he snapped a selfie inside the International Space Station — it was the first ever Instagram photo from space. Back on Earth, various organisations have embraced selfies, using them to raise funds for charity.
A host of celebrities got behind the #Selfie4SVP initiative run by the Irish Examiner. For every selfie received, the Irish Examiner will donate €1 to the Society of St Vincent de Paul, up to a total of €10,000.
Children’s charity BUMBLEance also got in on the action asking people to donate to them via text message and upload a #SantaSelfie afterwards to spread the word. Earlier this year, TV and radio personalities Dáithí Ó Sé and Ray D’arcy snapped ‘make-up selfies’ in aid of cancer research and awareness. This was in response to the female version ‘no make-up selfie’ which went viral on social media — also in aid of cancer research.
Of course some selfies are less noble in their intentions, but are no less entertaining. The most famous selfie of the year was taken by Bradley Cooper at the Oscars and shared by host Ellen DeGeneres on Twitter (right).
The celeb-laden snap was shared more than 3m times, becoming the most retweeted Tweet within minutes of posting — smashing the record previously held by Barack Obama.
Once the photo was released to the big, bad internet, it didn’t take long for the parodies to start rolling in — and some were just as good as the original.
Using the undeniable power of Photoshop, images of grumpy cat, Craig David, and Nicholas Cage were inevitably superimposed onto people in the image, while one visionary copied and pasted DeGeneres’s head on to everybody.
The Simpsons and Lego also recreated the pic, which was so amazing it temporarily broke Twitter.
But 2014 was also the year of the Novena selfie, thanks to Fr Adrian Egan. The priest snapped himself at mass with the congregation in the background, showcasing the lighter side of religion in Limerick.
From the church to the monarchy, this was also the year Princes William and Harry became the highest-ranking royals to take a selfie, while other members of the royal family have been inadvertently caught in the background.
Queen Elizabeth was not amused when a Scottish teen took a pic with her, but looked a little happier when two Australian teens caught her in the background of one at the Commonwealth Games.
Meanwhile, host Jimmy Kimmel set himself a mission to take “the cutest selfie ever” complete with children, puppies, feather boas, and boy band One Direction. Of course the most dangerous selfie of the year has to go to extreme adventurer George Kourounis after he dropped himself into an active volcano and took one of the most epic self-portraits of all time.
This year’s sporting events were also rife with selfies —Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray stopped mid-match in Madison Square Garden to take a snap, Rory McIlroy took one with the Claret Jug after winning the Open, and Cian Healy took one with the rest of the Irish rugby team after winning the Six Nations.
Not to mention the hoard of selfies taken by the German football team after they won the World Cup!
Whatever the occasion, there’s always time for a selfie. It may have been Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2013, but this craze is anything but last year.