Selfies, Emoji and the Economics of Communication

Today marks the debut of Modest Proposals, a new column by Sam Lessin. Sam is the former VP of product development at Facebook and is married to Jessica Lessin, founder of The Information.

The human face is the oldest and most sophisticated communications technology ever developed. But even today, despite the word “selfie” being recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary, I don’t think selfies and their cousin, “Emoji,” are being taken seriously enough by the technorati.

I believe pretty strongly that in the not-too-distant future people will be sharing an order of magnitude more selfies than any other type of media; the front-facing camera is going to turn out to be far more important than the traditional back-facing one.

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Snapchat might be the first company that is really deeply invested in selfies as communication, but they will not be even close to the last. You might not be doing corporate legal work in selfies anytime soon, but at least for social expression and community, get ready for a sustained selfie explosion.

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When people talk about English getting “destroyed,” what they are really seeing is the economically rational shift towards publishing quickly as the cost of error or ambiguity goes down.