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Is the #shelfie really the latest social media craze?

Screen grab from Instagram

The shelfie, the newest social media "craze," is exactly what you think it is.

Instead of taking a photo of yourself – a selfie – you point your camera phone and snap a pic of a shelf, whether it's a highly stylized one of your own or an assemblage of random items on a stranger's that just happens to catch your eye.

This may sound like vanity, but even if it is, it's hugely popular.

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In late April, the social media website Instagram said close to 40,000 photos with the hashtag "#shelfie" were uploaded to the site in a single week, Metro reports.

The phenomenon is a means to show off your books, share your toy collection, capture oddly inspiring items, or show off your abilities as a stylist.

"Some of the shots require a lot of preparation. I'll rearrange large pieces of furniture and stand on chairs. It's a miracle my roommate still thinks I'm sane," Danika So, a 20-year-old student in Toronto, told The Wall Street Journal. "It's wonderful to see mundanity transformed."

While there is a vast range of shelfies, the Journal points out that the form has already begun to produce several clichés. These include "the evocative pair of spectacles," "the stunning espresso foam design" and "the casual magazine tableau."

As these clichés suggest, many shelfies are carefully composed photos intended to convey certain attributes about the person behind the camera, whether it's their intellectual leanings or their refined taste in objets.

Hilary Robertson, a New York-based interiors stylist, likens shelfies to "a museum of you."

As she went on to tell the Journal, "There's a longing for individuality out there."

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Of course, not everyone is a fan. Jezebel called shelfies "the latest thing to make you want to quit the Internet" because of their celebration of "artifice," while the Huffington Post UK said that for people who aren't so design-savvy, they are "another way to feel inadequate."

Whatever each of us may feel about the phenomenon, let's please not refer to is as "the selfie for intellectuals."

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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