You may be unfamiliar with the word "belfie," a clever combination of the words butt and selfie that was invented during 2014, the Year of the Booty. It is a term that has lead countless men and women to spend hours in front of a mirror, contorting their bodies and stretching their arms to get that angle on their cheeks that makes them look more like Nicki Minaj than Miley Cyrus.
Luckily for ass enthusiasts who want to share pics of their backsides, ON.com, a social networking site that uses geo-location technology to connect people through photos, has now released the Belfie Stick. Much like the selfie stick, which your mom probably got for Christmas, this 40-inch retractable and bendable rod allows users to capture their ass on camera with little physical effort, combining Americans' twin loves of laziness and narcissism.
According to ON's co-founder and creative director Marcos Santacruz, booty pics have always been present on his company's website, but they noticed an increase in butt-related content after Kim Kardashian "Broke the Internet" with her Paper Magazine cover. (Not surprisingly, New York, Miami, and LA were some of the cities with the highest increase in belfies.) To capitalize on that phenomenon, ON created the Belfie Stick, which Santacruz says "allows the user to get the perfect extension and rotation angle so that they can get the best pic all in one shot without limitation."
With Instagram butt celebrity Jen Selter landing a spread in Vanity Fair and endless endorsements as a result of her remarkable posterior, it's no surprise that people are photographing their own rear ends. But the idea of the belfie is nothing new, according to Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center.
"It's important to separate 'newness' enabled by technology from other types of cultural trends. Belfies have been making an appearance ever since cell phones have had flip lenses that enabled users to take pictures of themselves," she said. "It is an obvious extension to go from one's face to other things in proximity, whether that's what your eating, reading, or body parts."
As with selfies or food pics, not everyone wants a bunch of photos of asses on their timelines.
"Butt photos are further complicated by the fact that the buttocks can easily have a sexual message," said Rutledge. "Since the reaction to selfies is often negative, as people label them as narcissistic and signs of self-obsession rather than as a logical outcome enabled by technology, the reaction to belfies is often doubly negative—combining the perceptions of self-absorption with the promotion of sexuality."
According to On.com, they sold out of the first run of Belfie Sticks. However, there is no evidence I've found of its physical production—and the photoshopped package and promo-y testimonials on the website kind of put into question the product's authenticity.
Although many might suggest that the high demand of the Belfie Stick, whether real or fake, is a bigger reflection of our culture's downward spiral into narcissism and self-promotion, Rutledge feels the stick is "inconsequential culturally," and is simply a product of the titillating idea of photographing a butt.
"Our use of social media and the behaviors that are enabled by increasingly adaptive and sophisticated tools is changing our understanding of privacy, personal and portraiture," Rutledge explained. "Belfies are just a minor manifestation of that larger trend."
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