24 Billion Photos Prove Our Selfie Obsession Is Out of Control

The selfie craze has reached new heights.

Kate Durbin, Hello Selfie, a performance at PULSE Miami Beach. Photo: Sarah Cascone.
Kate Durbin, Hello Selfie, a performance at PULSE Miami Beach. Photo: Sarah Cascone.

Just how selfie-crazed are we? According to new data released by Google, we’ve uploaded no less than 24 billion of them in the past year—and that’s just Google Photos, not counting pictures shared on Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, iCloud, and other photo-sharing sites.

The company shared the impressive statistic in a blog post celebrating the one-year anniversary of Google Photos. Altogether, users have uploaded 13.7 petabytes worth of images in that time. “It would take 424 years to swipe through that many photos!” wrote Anil Sabharwal, vice president of Google Photos.

The Daily Mail reports that the search engine company analyzed images uploaded to its Google Photos application with machine learning software, and determined which of them were were self portraits. Over 200 million people reportedly share their photos with Google on a monthly basis. Of course, because Google Photos was designed to be repository for users’ images, those 24 billion selfies weren’t all necessarily taken last year, and could in fact be much older.

Feel the stache🛥🛥🛥 Love the stache🚤🚤🚤

A photo posted by James Franco (@jamesfrancotv) on

The selfie trend has exploded over the past few years, the phenomena being fed by Instagram and new tools like the selfie stick, to the point where even Syrian refugees arriving in Greece have been spotted snapping them.

The physical dangers that selfies pose, both to people and to works of art, have been well-documented. A number of statues and other artworks have been damaged in the quest for the perfect photo op. More seriously, a spate of photo-related deaths led to the Russian government issuing an official set of selfie safety guidelines.

#Graduation day. But first, #letstakeaselfie #SugarLandTX #SLTX

A photo posted by Giovanni Cardona (@giovanni_cardona) on

As further proof of the selfie’s cultural dominance, Texas has immortalized the practice in a new public artwork in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land. Hyperallergic reports that a recently-installed bronze statue of two women taking a picture of themselves in front of City Hall has already become a popular photo op for locals.

What you may not know is that your selfies may not be as beloved by others. “Selfie Indulgence: Self-Favoring Biases in Perceptions of Selfies,” a recent study published the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, found that “selfie-takers perceived themselves as more attractive and likable in their selfies than in others’ photos.”

Conducted by the University of Toronto’s psychology department, the study asked 200 undergraduate students to rate their own selfies and those take by others.

Instagrammer Allyee Whaley (@emotionalallyee) takes a selfie in front of Vuokko Eskolin Nurmesniemi's Untitled (circle dress) (circa 1964) in the "Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today" exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design. Photo: Sarah Cascone.

Instagrammer Allyee Whaley (@emotionalallyee) takes a selfie in front of Vuokko Eskolin Nurmesniemi’s Untitled (circle dress) (circa 1964) in the “Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today” exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design. Photo: Sarah Cascone.

“They seem to be aware that people don’t like seeing a bunch of selfies of others, but when you ask people who hate selfies to rate their own selfies they rate them really high—almost as if they’d forgotten what they just said,” Daniel Re, a postdoctoral researcher who led the study, told Futurity.

“People take so many of these, they trick themselves into thinking they are doing a good job at it,” added Re, noting that some subjects reported taking upwards of 50 or even 100 selfies a week. “Ironically, by doing so, they may be making themselves look more narcissistic and less attractive.”


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