Answer by Arûn Râinâ:
Notwithstanding, I think it's pretty ridiculous and unhelpful to say that the selfie started in 1839. The modern selfie trend was obviously triggered by the arrival of the front-facing camera in the iPhone 4 in 2010, and has been fueled by the popularity of mobile photo services (Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr).Here's a helpful excerpt from a:(Boldface added by me):From 2006 to 2009, the term “MySpace pic” described an amateurish, flash-blinded self-portrait, often taken in front of a bathroom mirror. Self-portraits shot with cell phones, or “selfies”—cheap-looking, evoking the MySpace era—became a sign of bad taste.Part of the élitist frisson of Facebook, launched in 2004, was that many users found it superior to MySpace as a matter of both technology and taste. If one of the defining forms of self-representation on MySpace was the blurry bathroom selfie, set against a page decorated with graffiti and flashing graphics, Facebook profile photos—on a starched-white and Ralph Lauren-blue background—announced a clean, well-lit model of orderly selfhood. The MySpace selfie suggested a striptease (many men posed with their shirts off, directing attention to their torso); Facebook profile photos were generally proper—even preppy—in focus, and well lit.The Facebook imperative to present oneself in crisp focus wasn’t just aesthetic—it had social implications as well. Owing to cameras’ technological limitations, a well-focussed photograph was typically taken from at least three feet away, by another person. This declared social belonging, even if the picture was snapped by someone who was not close to you and had been cropped to display only your face. (The viewer was reassured that you were not alone by the telltale jutting angle of your clavicle as your arms reached out to wrap around your friends’ shoulders.) It was also important to periodically include other people in profile photos, signifying a robust portfolio of friends. On Facebook, everyone appeared to have friends.Facebook became not just a social network but a means of proving one’s social reach. Posed group photographs, tagged pictures, and friend counts were signifiers of social net worth, and a sign of healthy participation in the digital world. As Facebook rose to prominence, so did its model of what it meant to interact online. The subject of the MySpace bathroom selfie—with its tableaux of bathroom counter, mirror, face, and upper body—always looked alone. Selfies were for people without friends; the savvy moved on to more advanced networks.By the time Facebook surpassed MySpace’s traffic, in 2009, selfies seemed doomed to marginalization. But a key technological advance occurred a year later: a front-facing camera was built into the iPhone 4. These cameras are now embedded in the face of practically every smartphone and tablet, which means that you can take a self-portrait while looking at the screen, allowing for perfect framing and focus. These days, selfies can look as polished and crisp as posed group shots, and no longer require a mirror or an awkwardly contorted hand.So now the selfie is back, as evidenced by the heavy volume of them posted by teen-agers, who document everything from new hairstyles to new shoes to no particular occasion at all. (“Cooling” is a common caption among teens for a photo of oneself simply sitting.) Celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga post selfies, maintaining visual diaries for their millions of followers. People take selfies in public, posing everywhere and in every which way.New software has also contributed to the selfie renaissance. For teen-age social-media users, who generally prefer on-the-go mobile applications, like Instagram and Snapchat, the self is the message and the selfie is the medium. The Instagram selfie, with its soft, artfully faded tones, has replaced the stern, harshly lit mug-shot style of years past. The small, square photo, displayed on one’s phone, invites the photographer and the viewer to form a personal connection. There is little space on Instagram for delivering context or depicting a large group of people; the confines of the app make single subjects more legible than complex scenes. A face in an Instagram photograph, filtered to eliminate any glare or unflattering light, appears star-like, as if captured by a deft paparazzo.