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Surfers' paradise

Dixe Wills


Right, before we start, let's spend some time thinking about me. If, by some oversight, you don't know me, look me up on a search engine ('Dixe' alone will suffice - such are the compensations of having an unusual name) and marvel at the wonder of who I am. Mmmm, nice (and insanely hot too, as it happens).

And you're back in the room. I'm going to take you to the night of September 13, 2002 (a Friday, as you may recall). It is a very special date for all who speak the English language for it is on this evening that, somewhere in the nether regions of our planet, a young antipodean gentleman is knocking back tinnies at an injudicious rate. After suffering the consequences of his imprudence, he takes to a forum hosted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to post a photo ( to which he appends the following caption:

'Um, drunk at a mates [sic] 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.'

And so a new word is born, a word which would grow up to become the Oxford English Dictionary's (OED) Word of the Year for 2013 (oxforddictionaries. com). If you're lucky enough to receive a new edition of the OED for Christmas you'll find selfie nestling between selfhood and self-image and defined as: 'a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website'. Such has been the rise of the selfie that scientists believe there are now more arm's length self-portraits in existence than there are atoms in the universe.

But what do the selfie and previous OED Words of the Year say about society? The more recent ones have been: chav (2004), sudoku (2005), bovvered (2006), carbon footprint (2007), credit crunch (2008), simples (2009), big society (2010), squeezed middle (2011) and omnishambles (2012).

So, we've gone from demonising the working classes to doing puzzles to doing impersonations of a Catherine Tate character to being concerned about the environment to being concerned about the economy to doing impersonations of animated meerkats to repeating the words of David Cameron to repeating the words of Ed Miliband to repeating the words of a programme satirising the political system. Understandably fatigued by all this activity we've fallen back on narcissism, the penultimate refuge of the scoundrel.

The obvious conclusion regarding selfies is that they reflect the atomisation of society - that those who take them are desperate for love and approval. While this is certainly true of me I prefer to take a more charitable view generally - that each one is crying out, like a prophet, 'Thy life is as fleeting as pixels - now is the time for self-reflection. And beige doesn't suit you.'