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Editorial: A selfie moment

If there ever was a word and its definition that has taken the world by storm, it’s “selfie.”

In naming selfie — a digital self-portrait shared through social media — the word of the year, the editors of the Oxford Dictionaries legitimized this very social — yet very self-centered — phenomena ... not that it needed such crowning. It’s a mash-up of technology and how people now correspond: from cell phones that can take and send a photograph to the personal connections and social networks that have evolved with the World Wide Web.

Think about it: If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this snapshot of one’s self is certainly that. It captures a particular moment in time — our mood, what we’re wearing, who we might be with, where we are.

Selfies are also a moment of transformation, whereby a seemingly candid moment becomes a self-conscious one, especially when the photograph is immediately shared not with just people you know but with the public well beyond one’s social circle. From the world of entertainment and modeling to the unknown waiting to be discovered, selfies are out there.

Even Pope Francis has gotten into the act, posing with some teenagers at the Vatican.

For a glimpse of these shared moments and what they can convey, witness what happened at the giant memorial service for Nelson Mandela last week. Caught taking such a photograph was Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Denmark’s prime minister, who was sitting between President Barack Obama and Great Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron. That act sparked several debates, one over whether the taking of such a photo was a show of disrespect by the president and the wrong kind of behavior at such an occasion to whether Michelle Obama was displeased with her husband and his chumminess with the Danish prime minister, based upon photos captured by press photographers.

Whether you think that the president created an “international incident,” as FoxNews immediately trumpeted, or that it’s much ado about a spur-of-the-moment act that showed a more human moment for these world leaders, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

And isn’t that the motivation for a selfie to begin with?

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