Tech

11.14.13

Justin Bieber and the New Golden Age of Selfies

Love it or hate it, a new app is devoted entirely to the modern self-portrait. Can ‘Shots of Me’ end cyberbulling, too?

Selfies are here to stay.

That’s the message sent by Justin Bieber’s latest venture, a mobile social network dedicated solely to the digital self-portraits that are as reviled as they are popular. Parents, psychologists and general media have analyzed the selfie frenzie ad nauseum, debating whether the (largely teenage) obsession with posting pictures of one’s face—in the car, in the bathroom, even at funerals—is a signal of societal declines or simply the 21st-century version of kids being kids.

The makers of Shots of Me, the selfie-centric app, don’t really care what motivates a person to purse their lips, roll their eyes, or stick their tongue out as they snap a solo shot and send it to their friends. They just care that people do it. And they do—a lot of them. “We were creating these games and had a good, young demographic. Always high schoolers,” John Shahidi, CEO of RockLive, the mobile game development company behind Shots of Me, told TechCrunch. “We giggled that we knew how to market to high school girls so let’s build something even bigger.”

Shots of Me ensures its users post selfies by only allowing photos to be taken using the iPhone’s inward-facing camera. But what really sets it apart from other photo sharing apps like Instagram, SnapChat, and even Facebook is the absence of comments.

Enter Bieber, the 19-year-old pop star who was created by YouTube and reigns over social media as its (mostly) adored prince. But no prince is without his haters, and a large swath of Bieber’s 45-million strong Twitter following (the biggest in the world) plus the 11 million who track his pics on Instagram, are there to throw shade, leaving hundreds of hateful comments on every post. It was the anti-cyber bullying aspect that apparently prompted the pop star to the put $1.1 million into the venture.

Of course it doesn’t hurt to have Bieber as a wingman when you’re trying to win over high school girls. But he’s not the only high-profile investor to plant seed money. RockLive had already raised $1.6 million from heavyweight investors including boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Does the existence of an app like Shots of Me, and the willingness of big time financiers to throw their money behind it, signify that the selfie’s detractors have lost their battle? It seems so. Naysayers can critique and condemn the concept until they’re blue in the face, but the selfie is here to stay. Shots of Me has simply decided to embrace the phenomenon and try to improve it.