Rise of the selfie narcissistic - and boring

Earlier this week, reality TV's Kim Kardashian posted a diptych of selfies via Twitter.

The snaps feature Kardashian and pal Blac Chyna in tight workout finery with the caption ''getting right for the new year''.

Kardashian is a prolific contributor to social media, providing her 18 million-plus followers with daily thoughts and images about her existence. So, the fact that the reality star broadcast pictures of herself was not of note in itself.

But the snaps captured public attention for two reasons: one, they show off the women's bust and derriere areas in startling detail; and two, it has since been suggested that the images were photoshopped.

According to expert Peeje T (who is famous for photoshopping himself into pictures of famous people), Kardashian expanded her bosom in the first shot and tightened up her waist in the second.

As a result, reactions to the pictures swiftly changed from an envious/impressed ''wowee'' to a scathing/jubilant ''the hide of it!''


But strangely missing from all the wash-up was a disturbed/confused ''eek''. As in, ''Isn't it more than a bit weird and needy that someone would feel the need to post such blatantly voyeuristic shots of themselves for no reason other than just because?''

That Kardashian would post such pictures of herself seems to be taken as a given. She's one of many celebrities - including Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Rihanna - who regularly selfie, in what is seen as a super savvy way for the famous to connect with their fans direct.

There has also been intense focus on when/how/if Kardashian will return to her pre-baby figure since having her first child (none more so than from Kardashian herself).

Indeed, she was widely applauded last October when she posted a selfie in a butt-baring white bathing suit. The ''hear hears'' were heard across the globe when her rapper boyfriend Kanye West replied that he was ''HEADING HOME NOW''.

However, in a world where our government is trying to stop the boats, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is trying to stop the traffic and Kylie Minogue is trying to stop the clock (botox alert!), should we be trying to stop the selfies instead?

They have become a ubiquitous and ridiculous part of modern life. And it is not just the rich and famous who are doing it, either. The broke and unknown are enthusiastically in on the act too.

Last year, ''selfie'' - a ''photograph one has taken of oneself … and uploaded to a social media website'' - scored the honour of being named the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year.

According to the judges, selfie was the ''runaway winner''. ''It seems like everyone who is anyone posted a selfie somewhere on the internet.''

As the people at Oxford tell us, the word can claim Australian origins. The first known use of it dates back to an Australian internet forum in 2002. From there, it travelled to photo sharing sites such as Flickr and Myspace.

But it really kicked into high octane usage in 2012, thanks to the birth of smartphones with front-facing cameras - making it darned easy for people to snap a fetching photo of themselves.

Oxford Dictionaries say use of the word ''selfie'' increased by more than 17,000 per cent between October 2012 and October 2013.

According to one tracking site, more than 177 million photos have been uploaded to Instagram with the hashtag ''me''. No wonder there is so much advice available about optimising your selfie shots (i.e ''squinch'', get your face on an angle, ooze confidence).

At this time of year, selfies seem to be even more omnipresent than normal, as holidaying celebs and plebs alike capture their sunny/snowy selves en vacances. And in the lead-up to Sochi, the ''Selfie Olympics'' is raging online.

The selfie has become so established it has spawned more spin-offs than Keeping up with the Kardashians.

The ''belfie'' is a picture of one's behind (a la Kardashian and Chyna), whereas a ''helfie'' is a picture of one's hairdo. ''Drelfies'' are drunk selfies and ''welfies'' are workout selfies.

Apparently there is also something called a ''shelfie'', which involves furniture.

With all these creative themes and memes about, it is not hard to place the selfie in the quirky basket - gently dismissed as something the kids are doing on the internet these days.

The term itself even sounds cute, as if it belongs with cousin ''ie'' concepts, the toastie and the onesie.

In the pro-camp, psychologists have also suggested that selfies allow people to ''reclaim'' how they are photographed and to experiment with different looks and identities.

''I like to think that Instagram offers a quiet resistance to the barrage of perfect images that we face each day,'' Nebraska University psychologist Sarah Gervais wrote in Psychology Today last year.

And we all know that since cave people worked out how to paint, humanoids have been making pictures of themselves.

It's life affirming. And history recording.

But there is something gross about the selfie.

It's not the fact that people are taking pictures of themselves and publishing them for all the world to see. It's not even the fact that they are pulling posy poses while they do it.

It's that they are doing it incessantly, with more frequency than they would brush their teeth, phone a friend or feed the cat.

Some might say it's healthy to be a little bit vain.

But there comes a point when narcissism isn't just narcissistic. It's really boring too.

♦ Judith Ireland is a Fairfax Media journalist