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The selfie craze.

Dubai It's quarter past six on a Thursday evening, and the Dubai Fountain sidewalk outside Dubai Mall is teeming with people. As the crowds wait for the musical cascade to begin, it's not just the digital cameras and camcorders that go up in the air. There are more people who'd rather use their smart phone cameras. As Filipina Maria says: "It's easier. A couple of clicks and I can immediately post my selfies to my Facebook friends."

Sally Simon, a Briton positioned on the vantage bridge to Souk Al Bahar, is just as excited. She is better equipped, her smart phone mounted on a long rod. "It's a selfie stick," she explains. "Just bought it for Dh199. Helps me take cool pictures of myself, can't wait to upload them on Instagram."

This then is the new agenda: taking self-portraits on smart phones and instantly uploading them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like for public consumption. The 'selfie' phenomenon as it is called has taken the world by storm, with the UAE being no exception. Early this year, Time magazine ranked Dubai and Abu Dhabi as the region's second and third 'selfiest' cities after Doha. No surprises there as visitor footfalls in the UAE scale new highs.

But it doesn't take a tourist hotspot like Downtown's Centre of Now to warrant a selfie, anyplace, anytime will do. Digital self-expression has so captured the public imagination that the selfie has become the most happening theme in town, be it references to Dubai Duty Free's '#selfie draw', 'Virgin Radio's selfie song', a '#myIconic selfie party', a 'selfie Mantra night', even a 'selfie workshop by Eton Institute' - which of course later turned out to be an April Fool joke.

But when the language institute Eton initially announced the free 'selfie workshop' in a press statement, the fixation with getting a selfie right was rather convincingly captured by one of its staff who was quoted as saying: "We want to make sure that people don't turn into hermits through the adverse effects of a bad selfie. Studies have shown that a lot of people struggle in taking praiseworthy selfies and we would like to teach them methods to improve their selfie-taking skills. The workshop will teach attendees best practices to master poses while taking selfies and to adjust the angle of their smartphones and cameras to ensure maximum area coverage."

'Fun thing'

Recent reports have also talked about a selfie party hosted by a retailer at a fashion event, apparently inspired by the worldwide selfie phenomenon, with guests taking selfies against reflecting walls, even as the selfies appeared live on special screens.

At the Dubai Duty Free tennis championships too, there was much talk about fans being urged to take selfies with their wristband in the grandstand and then upload them to the tournament Instagram, Foursquare or Twitter accounts to be eligible in a '#DDFselfie draw' to win tickets for the finals.

Sociologist Dr Rima Sibban looks at the selfie trend as a 'fun thing'. "As new technologies evolve, they spur creativity in new ways. With a selfie you can catch a moment by yourself. It can be fun and helps you stay connected with your ego and also with those around you."

However, she said the selfie shouldn't be taken too seriously. "It's okay to take selfies. But when you become obsessed with it, it can create a problem. Anything in excess is not good."

Clinical psychologist Dr Raymond H. Hamden said there's nothing unusual about taking self-photos. "People have liked to look at themselves for centuries. People take selfies to look good and get attention. It doesn't necessarily mean they are narcissist. They want a selfie as proof of their own exploration and to get feedback on how pretty they look or how wealthy they are when they expose their make-up, jewellery or environment."

Dismissing perceptions that taking too many selfies could indicate a personality disorder, he said: "I do not think they are psychologically dangerous unless they are being done obsessively, compulsively or addictively."

Box:

What is a selfie?C A selfie is a casual self-portrait, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or phone camera and often shared on social media for public consumption.

Box:

Dubai has 41 selfie-takers per 100,000 people, according to TIME magazine as against 33 in Abu Dhabi

You speak:

Do you think the selfie fad will die down with time? Why?C

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Publication:XPRESS (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:May 1, 2014
Words:768
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