But what seemed like a joke was bigger than Herzig, a recent graduate of Washington University in St Louis, thought. A few months ago, after spring break, she opened Instagram to a feed full of 0.5 selfies.
“All of a sudden, one day, everyone was taking 0.5 selfies,” she said.
Wherever Gen Z gathers these days, a 0.5 selfie is almost bound to be taken, capturing the moment with random flattery – or comical lack thereof. The 0.5 selfies are showing up on Instagram, proliferating in group chats, becoming the talk of parties and often being snapped to chronicle the minutiae of daily life.
Unlike a traditional selfie, which people can endlessly prepare and pose for, the 0.5 selfie – so named because users tap 0.5x on a smartphone camera to toggle to ultra-wide mode – has become popular because it is far from curated.
Since the ultra-wide-angle lens is built into the back cameras of phones, people can’t watch themselves take a 0.5 selfie, creating random images that convey the whimsy of distortion.
“You really don’t know how it’s going to turn out, so you just have to trust the process and hope something good comes out of it,” said Callie Booth, 19, from Rustburg, Virginia, who added that a good 0.5 selfie was the “antithesis” of a good front-facing one.
In their best 0.5 selfies, Booth said, she and her friends are blurry and straight-faced.
“It’s not the traditional perfect picture,” she said. “It makes it funnier to look back on.”
The problem is that taking a 0.5 selfie is hard. Because of the back camera, angling and physical maneuvering are a must. If selfie-takers want to fit everybody into a frame, they have to stretch their arms as far out and up as possible. If they want to maximise how much a face distorts, they have to perch their phone perpendicular to their forehead and right at their hairline.
On top of those acrobatics, because the phone is flipped around, 0.5 selfie aficionados have to press its volume button to snap the picture, taking care not to mistake it for the power button. Sometimes 0.5 selfies with large groups require using a self timer as well. Nothing is visible until the selfie is taken, which is half the fun.