An arm that looks strangely long. Buggy eyes looking at the camera. Legs for days. tiny bodies.
This is a new kind of selfie, the 0.5 selfie that doesn’t takes itself too seriously. If the 0.5 selfie were a human, it would be the friend who’s always there to lighten the mood with a joke, but also knows when to get serious. It’s pronounced “point five” by the way.
24-year-old Aba is a London-based designer and creative who loves taking 0.5 selfies, the ultra-wide camera setting that was first available on the Samsung Galaxy S10 2019 and so on Apple’s iPhone 12. “I saw someone tick tock post one,” she tells me. “I was like damn that looks so good.” Aba is 5’10” but likes the fact that 0.5 selfies make her look even “longer”.
While the 0.5 selfie aesthetic may be new, portrait photographer Drew Forsyth explains that “wide-angle lenses have been around almost as long as photography itself.” “The first successful wide-angle lens was developed in 1862,” he explains. “It was called the Harrison & Schnitzer Globe and had a maximum field of view of 92° – if you think of the latest developments The wide angle of the iPhone has a field of view of 120°.” Cameras have come a long way in development since the 19th century, [thanks to smartphones that offer more sophisticated features] and Drew thinks that’s a great thing for creativity.
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Smartphones are now so much more available, accessible and affordable, and that means an increase in self-portraits. “The democratization of photography over the past 20 years has been incredible to watch, and putting a camera in the hands of billions of people around the world via smartphones has completely transformed our culture and lived experiences,” he says. “A 0.5 lens lets you see the world in a different way, and I think a lot of people are curious and exploring the ‘new’ technology.”
What is barrel distortion?
But how does a wide-angle camera lens actually work and why does it look weird? “The reason why different body parts look bigger and smaller is because of something called ‘barrel distortion,'” says Drew. “It makes things look bigger in the middle of the photo and things on the edges look smaller or farther away. That’s because if what the lens sees is wider than the sensor on a digital camera or phone, the image looks like it’s been distorted to fit the edges of the frame. It can look weird and weird.” That’s why people’s foreheads, for example, can appear slightly larger than they actually are in real life.
It reminds me of a polaroid or film camera where you have to wait 24 hours for it to develop.
The frank and casual 0.5 lens is built into the phone’s rear camera, meaning you can’t see the image until you’ve taken it, resulting in a less polished result. “That’s the beauty of it,” Aba agrees. “It reminds me of a Polaroid or film camera where you have to wait 24 hours for it to develop.” Luckily, the year 2022 means the time it takes you to flip your iPhone over and snap the picture up is just a few seconds.
It goes back to that too 2000s and early 2010s, a nod to those oddly angled selfies we used to take in the days of BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) — BlackBerry’s IM service, post-MSN and before WhatsApp. You took it with a digital camera and you didn’t care that your arm was visible. The image would appear slightly blurry, but it wouldn’t matter, and you wouldn’t bother retaking them. Ah, nostalgia.
The 0.5 selfie is the opposite of what we are inundated with on Instagram: FaceTuned Selfies and perfectly curated feeds. And the democratization of beauty means people are rebelling against what is considered conventionally attractive.
A change in the way we use Instagram was long overdue. How many times have you opened the app only to find soulless, perfectly timed movies by influencers you don’t even follow while on vacation in the Bahamas? To The latest update from InstagramPhotographer Tati Brüning vented her frustration Post an infographic in the app, which read: “Make Instagram Instagram again. Stop being Tiktok I just want to see cute photos of my friends.” The post captioned “Best regards everyone.” And it seemed like the whole world was behind her, as it garnered 2.2 million likes, and Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Chrissy Teigen reposted the pic approvingly.
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When I open mine Instagram Now all I have to do is scroll for a minute or so and I’ve already seen way more suggested posts than my eyes want to see and way too many sponsored posts promoting products I definitely won’t buy (one was a post telling me persuaded to travel first class by train, in a Cost of Living Crisis?).
But social media users are now rebelling against what is seen as the new normal and longing for times when we used social media more easily. Mark Bage is creative director at creative agency Not Studio. He thinks people just have had enough. “We’ve seen various iterations of this anti-aesthetic over the past 18 months, and one of the ways this has manifested is in the 0.5 selfie,” he says. “Given the nature of the social media landscape, this is an understandable shift; on the one hand, users are moving away from homogeneous, overly curated content towards something rawer, and on the other hand, visibility is lower, making content unavailable.”
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2022, GenZ go their own way, a reimagined version of social media, free from millenary influences. Alice Ophelia, one of the authors of Gen Z and the culture newsletter Afternoon tea, points to the rise of the 0.5 selfie, coinciding with a gradual shift in aesthetics that Gen Z has embraced. “IRL style curation has come back in this post-pandemic era — well, almost post-pandemic,” she tells me.
“This shift in presentation comes within the broader context of Gen Z creators and consumers creating their own space within legacy platforms like Instagram, and how they continue to reject the heavily curated and manufactured ‘millennial aesthetic’ of the 2010s. Think: flatlays, filters, and boomerangs.”
Zoe, a 20-year-old actress from LA, California, says she 0.5 selfie obsession started when she and her friends started sending them to each other. “I started sending these selfies to let my friends know where I was and what I was doing!”
“I love that you can see most of the environment where the picture is taken,” she adds. “My favorite photo I took was in a grocery store. It’s so random, love that I documented such a casual moment in my day. I think 0.5 selfies allow for a more casual side of social media than the constant filters and poses.” She also likes the “weird” effect and how “silly” they look, as well as the way her arms show through it look “super long”.
“Intentionally messy, ugly, and often distorted” is the brand that Alice’s 0.5 selfie lends itself to. “It’s about being subversive with self-expression. We see this appetite for subversion being expressed in the popularity of 2000s fashion, the nostalgia for early internet aesthetics, and the resurgence of interest in platforms like Tumblr and the indie sleaze trend. “
While 0.5 selfies are a refreshing change from what we’re used to, there’s still a certain level of sophistication that goes into capturing a selfie. Will we ever experience Instagram with the same innocence and curiosity that we had when the app was first created in 2010?
It was a very different time. You would scroll through your Instagram and see everyday snaps posted by your friends, of a half-eaten burger with the sepia filter used on Max, or a cover of your school notebook. It would get 9 likes, maybe 10 if you’re lucky.
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I personally don’t think we ever will. “While the 0.5 selfie might at first seem to dismiss the convulsive aesthetic of effort and sincerity, it nonetheless plays absolutely into a level of performative curation – albeit one of self-deprecation,” Alice believes. “We see that in people like Charlie D’Amelio wearing graphic t-shirts that say “ironically hot” and “I ” — as well as Julia Fox’s quirky red carpet makeup looks and DIY suits.”
The 0.5 selfie is a refreshing trend that’s fun and makes people happy, something we should appreciate for what it is. However, we’ve somehow gotten into a culture where we try to curate openness, and into a false “don’t care” attitude, as Alice points out. 0.5 selfies are probably less organic than we might think.