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Say cheese, but don't embarrass yourself-ie

It's been a good year for ...

the selfie

"Selfie: noun (plural selfies) informal: a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website. Origin: early 21st century: from self + -ie."

2013 was the year selfie made it into the Oxford Dictionary after use of the word increased by 17,000% since 2012.

The earliest known usage of the term is an Australian online forum post from 2002. There are also a number of spin-off terms, such as helfie (a picture of someone's hair), belfie (a picture of someone's bottom), welfie (a picture of someone working out) and drelfie (a drunken selfie).

So, is the selfie just another sign of our narcissistic times, or a valuable vehicle for self-expression?

Perhaps a bit of both, although the concept isn't new. Self-portraits by artists go back to the early Renaissance and, famously, American photography enthusiast Robert Cornelius took the first-ever photographic self-portrait in 1839. He took the image by removing the lens cap and then running into frame where he sat for a minute before covering up the lens again. On the back he wrote "The first light Picture ever taken. 1839". He didn't post it on Twitter.

Unsurprisingly, the popularity of the selfie has been celebrity-driven and everyone from popsters to the Pope have been at it. Not slow to miss a PR trick, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, below left, Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian have been some of the more prolific posters of selfies on social networking sites, while one of the most famous images this year was the Pope posing with teenagers at the Vatican.

Another that went viral was taken by Prime Minister David Cameron's sister-in-law on the morning of her wedding. The snap shows Cameron snoozing in the background on a four-poster bed.

Maybe not such a good PR move ...

It's been a bad year for ... the selfie

And therein lies the problem for the selfie. Anyone can get in on the act; even politicians.

This is making the selfie decidedly uncool. Ed Miliband cannot reinvent his image with a quick pic with Lily Allen or Joey Essex.

Perhaps the nadir of the selfie, though, was that moment at Nelson Mandela's memorial service when President Barack Obama, Denmark's PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt and David Cameron thought it was a good idea to take a selfie. Inappropriate barely covers it. So I have a suggestion for a new word for 2014: the self-restraintie.

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