Mobile Communications

Rant: Demand for selfie-gratification floats Meitu's boat

Vanitas vanitatum – vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

It has been argued that happiness is how closely your personality correlates with others in your environment. Little wonder then that ‘old’ and ‘miserable’ go so well together. At a certain age we will tend to fall out of sympathy with the zeitgeist and with young people just as they inherit the streets, defining culture, fashion and mores. Take selfies. No really take them – I have no need of them. But whether you like them or loathe them they have become an everyday part of life, so much so that Meitu, the Chinese maker of a selfie app could be ‘worth’ (one should always use the quotes when reporting on company valuations) $5bn when its stock is traded on the Honk Kong market, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Narcissus, enraptured by his own image, may have drowned but his legacy survives on in Xiamen, the town eight-year-old Meitu calls home. The numbers are stupendous: Meitu’s apps like BeautyPlus and MakeupPlus have reportedly been downloaded over one billion times, playing to a modern obsession with sharing and self-enhancement that appears to be a characteristic of recent web activity… or just human nature, take your pick. Meitu’s software includes image-editing tools that let you add effects and improve on what your mother gave you. The whole thing might at first glance seem one of those oddly Chinese phenomena but the signs are that what you might call ‘selfie-gratification’ is spreading all over the world.

Meitu’s opportunity is massive, of course, because the number of selfie punters is massive. One report suggests that today’s young adults will take over 25,000 images of themselves over their lives. That works out at about 25,000 more than people in my age group will take. Collectively we (OK, you) take a million a day – although I wouldn’t be overly confident on the precision of these numbers.

Selfies can, occasionally, be useful and are starting to be applied to authentication or even as evidence. And, to be fair, the odd selfie can be charming.

But the sticks, that will soon become landfill, thrust out suddenly in the street in the maws of rabble? The frenzied preening? The desperation to gather proof that we can occasionally bump into a real-life celebrity? As I said, you have to be of a certain age.

Also read:

Rant: Be gone, emoticon


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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