The first selfie trend of 2023 has arrived. Featuring distorted faces and exaggerated body parts captured at a surreal angle: meet the traffic mirror selfie.
The photo trend has become a mainstay among Generation Z social media feeds over the past few months, according to a recent piece published by The New York Times.
The self-portrait style involves Generation Z taking distorted selfies using their reflection in a convex mirror — which has become known on TikTok as a “traffic mirror.”
According to the The New York Times, TikTok uses the term traffic mirror to describe the safety mirrors that enable staff at subway stations and grocery stores to keep watch over a big area.
It can also mean the blind-spot mirrors that wing out from school buses and 18-wheelers or semi-trailer trucks.
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These traffic mirrors all have a reflective surface that is convex or curved outwards.
The traffic mirror’s effect is that it produces a selfie with a strong visual distortion and a strange but fun aesthetic.
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@jigglyjulia y’all are going to be sick of me after i post every single mirror selfie with this guy #mirror #convexmirror #garagemirror #fisheyemirror #roomdecor #aesthetic ♬ original sound – Julia Huynh
The hashtag #trafficmirror has over 22 million views on TikTok. And the mirror is promoted as both a selfie tool and an interior design feature.
In its distorted aesthetic, the traffic mirror selfie has it closest predecessor in fisheye lens photography — a photographic technique which has had a steady resurgence in the last few years.
The ultra wide-angle style of visual documentation has seen a return on Instagram — with celebrities like Emma Chamberlain and Devon Lee Carlson posting fisheye lens images.
The fisheye lens aesthetic has also appeared on Lorde’s and Harry Style’s recent album covers.
The revival of fisheye lens photograhy could be down to the fact that it was a signature style of hip-hop music videos and skateboarding films of the 1990s — a decade that Gen Z is fascinated with.
The fisheye lens made skateboarders and hip hop stars looks visually larger-than-life in these videos.
For this younger generation, the 1990s represents a cultural landscape only depicted in film photos and polaroids. The convex lens of traffic mirrors is a way to emulate that unique, distorted effect in the fisheye lens videography of this time.
The popularity of the traffic mirror selfie can also be linked to the many recent trends that have seen Generation Z rebelling against the highly-edited, picture-perfect visuals that they grew up seeing on Instagram from their millennial counterparts.
These trends include the rise of blurry photos, the return of early 2000s digital cameras and of course, the 0.5 selfie which frames the subjects from an equally extreme angle.
Bifocal convex mirror is next level freaky pic.twitter.com/sMGVuZuZ5D
— bunny ear ultimatum (@mingp0ng) January 15, 2023
The traffic mirror provides another intentionally imperfect lens for Generation Z to take photos with. Their out-of-scale reflections imbue their selfies with spontaneity and irreverance.
“The way the mirrors distort the face and body can take some of the pressure off looking perfect,” author Allie Rowbottom tells The New York Times.
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“The proliferation of apps like Facetune to smooth pores and cinch waists beyond the point of possibility brought about a #NoFilter backlash that seemed to emphasize authenticity.
“But even some of that so-called realness still required self-manipulation. Looking ‘absolutely bizarro’ online is Gen Z’s rejection of both approaches.”
Rowbottom adds: “We’ve exited the conventional era of the selfie that began in 2012, 2013 with the advent of Instagram.”
Image credits: Header photo sourced via (from left to right) TikTok/@dawnnieee_ ; Instagram/@irid3ssa ; and TikTok/@sarahbetts