The culture of taking selfies

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ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - The selfie phenomenon is taking off.  Everyone is doing it, celebrities, kids, grandparents even the White House is getting in on the action. The quick snapshots have become the norm.

There are apps for it, songs about it and instructions on how to take the best selfie. The entity known as the selfie is out of control and has a life of its own.

FOX2 went to St. Louis University journalism and social media expert Dr. Amber Hinsley to find out why selfies are so addictive.

'The phenomenon of the selfie and the culture of the selfie is feeding this narcissism that we`ve always had. The culture of the selfie is universal and we can see it`s something inherent in human nature. If you give a child a phone as soon as they figure out how to take photos they`re going to start taking photos of themselves. What`s interesting is they`re so young and don`t understand narcissism and that they should hid it.'  said Hinsley

In 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary made 'selfie' the word of the year. According to a recent Yahoo article nearly one-trillion pictures will be taken in 2014 and most of them are expected to be selfies.

'What`s happening is years ago it was just Myspace or Facebook and Twitter where we posted selfies now you have other social media places to share.' Hinsley said

There`s also a new term gaining popularity called the Stealthie. It`s when you pretend to take a picture of yourself, but you are really trying to capture someone or something else in the background. Selfies have also become an obsession, according to reports a man in Great Britain tried to commit suicide after failing to take the perfect picture.  Canadian Jared Frank also put himself in harm`s way to take a selfie.  Earlier this year Frank got kicked in the head while trying to take a selfie with a moving train in the background.

'There was a case in Russia not long ago where a young woman actually died trying to take a picture of herself she fell to her death.' Hinsley explained

Smartphone apps are available that focus on the selfie.  Some have a slimming effect to change your appearance.   While some say the apps have a negative impact on body image, SkinneePix co-creator Sue Green disagrees, she says her $.99 app is designed to inspire those who want to make a realistic change; the app will only focus on the face. The SkinneePix got 50,000 hits on its website in the first 30 days.

'We understand that the camera can add 10 or 15 pounds and it has to do with lighting depth of field so our goal was to in essence level the playing field so you can get those 10 or 15 pounds back and make it realistic.' said Green.

FOX 2 asked Washington University students Katie Bergman and Tayler Beal what they thought about the impact of selfies on our society.

'I`ve taken selfies and I must say I`m not a stranger to them but sometimes it gets a bit excessive. People work really hard to make sure they get all of their friends in one selfie." said Bergman

'I just wished that more people would just enjoy life instead of worrying about taking pictures of themselves.' said Beal

The bottom line is the viral selfie phenomenon will grow along with our need to share our experiences with others and continue to be a part of our digital and evolving society.

'As we see people emulate what`s going on in pop culture we continue to see the rise of the culture of the selfie.' Hinsely said

Businesses like Chesterfield Mall use the selfie as a marketing tool. If you take a selfie and use the hashtag # liveplayfully you can win a $100 gift certificate.

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