Conventional wisdom dictates that everyone hates selfies. You have to roll your eyes when your high school frenemy pops up, mugging adorably, in an Instagram pic with some terrible “dance like no one’s watching” caption.
But people keep posting them, and liking them, and commenting on them, despite widespread kvetching about the selfie phenomenon. Like pumpkin spice lattes or the Kardashians, selfies are too popular to really be as reviled as we like to pretend they are.
The developers behind a new app called Selfie are banking on our secret obssession with self-portraits. They’ve created an app that’s a cross between Instagram and Snapchat, but only allows users to use their front-facing smartphone cameras.
We asked creator Joshua Nguyen if he really thinks people want to look at each other’s selfies. “Faces are the most interesting part of any image,” he said in an email. “And we’ll always be fascinated by the variety and diversity of faces in the world.”
Selfies have become a form of communication, he went on, and they can display a person’s mood, surroundings, and more. It’s not surprising that he says millennials in their teens and early 20s are the biggest users of the app so far–we are the pioneers of the selfie as a medium.
The app has a global feed of everyone’s selfies, as well as a feed for just friends. This being Betabeat, our minds immediately went to porn and we asked Mr. Nguyen if there are measures in place to keep the app from becoming a nudie-pic hub. The app uses Facebook and Twitter to authenticate users, he said, and users display their real names. They also have a “report abuse” feature. Also, the global feed should discourage people from posting dick pics, unless they truly do not give a toss about who sees their family jewels.
“We haven’t seen any of the mature content at all,” Mr. Nguyen said. “It’s mainly been funny, entertaining faces as people use the app almost as a mirror.”
The photos also self-destruct, like they do in Snapchat, because this “frees up people to experiment with their faces and identity,” Mr. Nguyen said. “It’s a signal of safety.”
The app is more about “the moment and what people are saying with their faces at the time vs. any sort of permanent art,” he said.
He and his colleagues built the app as an experiment for their friends at first, he said. And once the novelty wears off, “there are interesting forces at play: how we communicate, how we find connecting with faces better than text, how the ease of taking selfies affect our self esteem and identity.”
Okay, we can get behind use of the selfie as a tool of communication–but only if it means fewer pouty, overly filtered glamour shots with Lana Del Rey lyrics for captions.