The Selfie Unfiltered by Noel Anderson

‘A few years ago, someone started a selfie revolution, this is the story of how it began’

Am I in a good light? It’s Friday night, I’m at the Newtown Hotel in Sydney eating pizza and listening to the song This Will Be (An Everlasting Love ) by Natalie Cole. And I think, this is a really good time to pull out my iPhone and snap a picture of myself. Why not? The bar is full of happy snappers! ABBA suddenly takes over the sound system, begging me to take a chance on them, which got me thinking, about selfies. Who invented the modern selfie? I had no bloody idea. I stuffed a slice of tandoori pizza in my mouth and pulled out my iPhone, which is always friggin’ dangerous. The first time I heard the term ‘selfie’ was when I was rehearsing a show, an actor I was working with (let’s call her actor X) shouted, ‘time for a selfie.’ The entire cast and crew huddled together, and actor X squeezed into the middle, held out her iPhone…Smile! Snap!

‘Do I look fat semi naked in my Instagram posts?’

It’s 9pm, the drag show has started at the Newtown Hotel. When Doves Cry is being performed on stage by a perfectly manicured drag queen, I’m sipping beer and researching the history of selfies, on Google search. Of course, the term “selfie” is common place today but not so long ago it wasn’t! So, what exactly is it? I go to the bar, order another beer, and I’m back on my iPhone, researching. A selfie is a self-portrait or photograph, usually taken with a hand-held digital camera or phone. Selfies are not considered by any means to be high art (some shows I’ve directed haven’t been either) and are often considered works of narcissism. The drag queen does a twirl of her frock, the number is over.

A little bit of History

The first selfie has been credited to Robert Cornelius in 1839. Cornelius, one of the great American pioneers of photography, produced a daguerreotype of himself.

The Australian Connection

The acts change at the hotel, a new drag queen is on stage, giving a rather superbly mimed performance of I Want to Break Free by Queen, I’m still on friggin’ Google 😎 It’s almost certain, the modern selfie originated in Australia, with a young drunk using the word to describe a self-portrait of who else…? Yep, you’ve guessed it…himself! That was over a decade ago. Time flies when you’re self obsessed!

‘Now listen here…Selfie is not a dirty word’

I order a pint of Pure Blonde, low carb, and continue goggling… sorry, I’ve had a few. Correction, I continue googling! The earliest known usage of ‘selfie’ is from a 2002 online ABC forum post. By 2013, the word “selfie” had become commonplace enough to be included in the Oxford English Dictionary and the word “selfie” was announced as the word of the year!

A final drunken attempt online, by myself, to search Instagram, revealed 270,000,000 images uploaded with #selfie. The selfie taken by Ellen DeGeneres during the Academy Awards several years ago, broke the record of most re-tweeted image ever and was shared 2,000,000 times, causing Twitter to crash! Welcome to the modern age, I down my beer. Bartender! Another pint, please!

Definition of selfie: an image that includes oneself (often with another person or as part of a group) and is taken by oneself using a digital device, especially!

About the author – Noel Anderson is currently adapting his play Sammy & Dave into a film. Noel has directed over 50 theatrical productions. Checkout Noel’s Podcast ‘Email To My 17-Year-Old Self‘ on Podbean and on his iTunes Channel – Noel Anderson’s 15 Minutes of Fame.