Obama embarrassed himself in 2013 when he attended a memorial ceremony for his longtime hero, Nelson Mandela, and took a grinning selfie with the Danish and British prime ministers. Later, the Boston Red Sox’s David Ortiz took a selfie with Obama, Samsung retweeted the photo with a plug for the Galaxy Note 3, and the White House objected.
The White House has also used selfies’ viral powers to promote policy, for example in a Buzzfeed feature last year to encourage young people to sign up for Obamacare.
David Nakamura and Greg Jaffe, The Washington Post:
For decades, the traditional grip-and-grin photograph has been a standard part of most presidential meetings, and even today it has attributes that recommend it. Unlike the selfie, posed photos taken by the president’s official photographer are almost always in focus and sometimes include a presidential autograph.
“I always thought they were as important as the historical photographs I made,” said Eric Draper, President George W. Bush’s chief photographer. “There are thousands of them hanging in homes, offices and government buildings around the world.
On the other hand, selfies are more intimate and more appropriate for social media.
Now Obama seems to just find them annoying. People pester him for selfies when he goes out in public, when he’d really rather just shake hands and meet people. Or, if he’s working out in a hotel gym, he’d rather just be left alone.
At a fundraiser in Springfield, Ill., this year, he joked that he might not have run for the White House had smartphones and selfies been so prevalent in 2008.
“Folks just have their phones, they don’t want to shake my hand anymore,” Obama said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, I’m here, live, in front of you!’ ”