It’s remarkable how many news articles and magazine features seem to need to crowbar into their story something discussing selfies. It seems to be regarded as a guaranteed way of getting readers’ attention – particularly if the article is bemoaning some kind of dreadful new selfie-related behaviour (kids getting head lice ‘due to selfies’ being one of my favourite recent stories), and then enables readers to chime in with their own stories of selfie-hatred and disdain for Those Types of People. A trend I’ve noticed over the past few months is the habit of coining new selfie-related terms, so I thought I’d make a list:
Belfie: perhaps the original variant, meaning a selfie of one’s behind. Articles about this new term and trend are a great excuse to collect numerous images of bottoms.
Delfie: a photograph of a man’s genitals.
Elfie: the person who takes a selfie-like photograph of the subject on their behalf.
Felfie: a selfie taken by a farmer. Hailed by some journalists as a valuable means for countering the problems of isolation some farmers face as part of rural life.
Gelfie: a selfie in the gym. Viewed as the ultimate in narcissism, yet to me this displays a type of honesty that is missing from other similar images of the self. To look like this, the images states, I had to work hard. Visibly working on one’s appearance, however, is often cause for ridicule – one need only look at the fashion for ‘natural beauty’, and the mockery of ‘fakeness’ to see how artifice must be concealed and denied. The gym selfie is therefore a rejection of the coercion to hide this effort, this deliberate transformation – “I didn’t wake up like this” it says “I had to do something about it”.
Melfie: either an image of a mother, or a male subject.
Nelfie: a nude selfie – which, as I’m writing in my thesis at the moment, is arguably the most logical of all selfies, in that it embodies the coercion to speak of one’s sexuality as a core component of the ‘truth’ of one’s identity (Foucault, 1978). Additionally, it is a response to and acknowledgement of postfeminist rhetoric which defines empowerment in relation to sexual confidence. Helfie: a photograph focusing on the subject’s hair.
Pelfie: an image of one’s pet (so not strictly a selfie at all, but just a way to draw attention what you’re doing), or a photograph of oneself eating a pie.
Shelfie: another early variant, this time as a rejection of photographing one’s face, in favour of one’s bookshelf. The binary opposition between appearance and intellect is reinscribed with pride, and the shelfie-taker has managed to present their identity for social validation without making themselves vulnerable to criticism. Performs the same role as selfies, but pretends that it’s better.
Refie: an image with a member of royalty, or taken whilst running.
Telfie: images either taken on the toilet, or with a tractor.
Velfie: a short video clip of oneself.
Welfie: either a workout selfie, or a term to denote someone who takes a lot of selfies.
These terms not only reflect a wish to define specific activities – if it were only that, we would have special words for other types of photography too. Instead, these cutesy terms contribute to the overall mockery of selfies, by establishing it as a photographic practice in which fads are so abundant that neologisms are required simply to keep track. The ultimate test of this is quite simple: read out any of these definitions to someone and note their reaction. Laughter at these terms, and a roll of the eyes, is a means for ratifying and joining in with the more generalised attack on young women’s photographic practice. “A ‘Belfie’ you say? Ha! What silly thing will they think of next?”