I'm a middle-aged person who is not up on the latest trends and am not a social media user. But a few days ago on CNN, the anchors were going on about the latest celebrity "selfie" that had "gone viral." My first thought, of course, was "why in the #%%^ is this news?" but then I looked at the photo they were showing. One could see that the subject was not holding a phone or camera, and the photo was clearly taken at a distance of 20 or so feet. In other words, it was not taken by the subject. Shouldn't that have made it a "someone-elsie?" Or better yet, a plain old-fashion "photograph?"

On the other hand, the celeb had posted the pic to his own something-or-other (maybe insta-gram) account. So is that what made it a selfie?

I read this and this. Each seems to indicate a selfie is taken by the subject, but neither is perfectly clear.

  • Note that ' selfie bars' allow people to take pictures from a distance. google.it/…
    – user66974
    Dec 24, 2014 at 22:05
  • RE: One could see both of the subject's hands, and the photo was clearly taken at a distance of 20 or so feet. Some phones have cameras with built-in timers, so the picture might still be a genuine "selfie", even with both arms showing. ("Look, ma, two hands!")
    – J.R.
    Dec 24, 2014 at 22:07
  • Perhaps a mirror was the culprit?
    – Evorlor
    Dec 25, 2014 at 2:05

2 Answers 2


In fact, CNN was mocked for their incorrect use of "selfie". They even show a "selfie" at one point which is clearly just a portrait.

A selfie is nothing more than a picture including yourself, taken by yourself. It can include anything in the background, foreground, etc - so long as you are the one who took it ( and not with a time-delay where the camera is placed in the distance ).

So the phrase "I took a selfie" would mean, "I took a picture of myself".

Similarly, "Check out my selfie" would imply that the picture was taken of me and by me.

  • Do you have a link/ source for this mocking of CNN?
    – cobaltduck
    Dec 24, 2014 at 23:11
  • 1
    He's likely referring to this hilarious brief bit from HBO's Last Week Tonight With John Oliver a few months back: youtube.com/watch?v=oHNx2VVDDnE Dec 25, 2014 at 0:51

"Selfie" as defined by the OED is:

A photograph that one has taken of oneself

So, typically, it is a photo one takes of oneself.

I have, however, noticed that group photos from smartphones where the owner of the phone is central to the picture have also gained the "selfie" title, whether or not that person took the actual picture.

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