They have been blamed for ruining the concert experience, passed off as a harmless fad, criticised as a dangerous sign of western society’s growing narcissism and have been the bane of professional cyclists.
Now the ‘Selfie’ – the self-portrait of the digital, smartphone and social media age – has incurred the wrath of a higher authority … the Queen.
The political classes may have joined in the global phenomenon, with both President Barack Obama and David Cameron being pictured in selfies at various times, but the social media craze of self-worship has reportedly found no favour at Buckingham Palace where the Queen has quietly confided that she loathes the sea of mobile phones that greets her whenever she looks up.
She may have always been keen to embrace modern technology but Her Majesty told Matthew Barzun, the US ambassador, that she found it “strange” to see nothing but the backs of mobile phones whenever she is greeted by a crowd, saying she misses the eye contact of the human experience.
Selfies have become the global social media phenomenon of the age, as millions of people capture an image of themselves in a moment in time before uploading the picture to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other social networks.
The monarch, who became an online hit herself when she inadvertently “photobombed” a selfie taken by an Australian sportswoman at the Commonwealth Games, made the comments to Mr Barzun when he presented his credentials at Buckingham Palace in November.
In an interview for the October edition of Tatler magazine, the 43-year-old American said she made the remarks during a “nice chat” they had after the ceremony.
He told the magazine: “She was essentially saying ‘I miss eye contact’.”
The Queen attracts large crowds when she carries out engagements across the country and is often greeted by a sea of well-wishers straining to take pictures of her, both traditional and selfies.
She became an online hit when she appeared in a photograph by Australian hockey player Jayde Taylor, smiling in the background over her shoulder as she posed with a teammate during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July.
The Queen was also notably deluged with staff taking camera-phone pictures when she visited New Broadcasting House to officially open the BBC’s headquarters in June last year.
Mr Barzun was a key figure in securing US President Obama’s two electoral victories.
In between the campaigns, the business executive, a Harvard history and literature graduate, served as US ambassador to Sweden.
The Queen is not the only one to bemoan the constant obsession with self-portrait smartphone photographs.
Earlier this year, fans desperate for pictures with Tour de France cyclists were lambasted for creating a danger for riders by trying to take selfies as the cyclists raced by them at 73mph.
Competitors warned that spectators could get seriously hurt if they stepped into the road when they had their backs to the fast-moving peloton.
American cyclist Tejay van Garderen branded the craze ‘a dangerous mix of vanity and stupidity’ and was thought to have suffered a knee injury after a collision with a spectator.
At the time, he said: “Standing in the middle of the road with your back turned while 200 cyclists come at you, just to take a selfie. Think.
“I love the crowds and thank you for your support. But please give us room. Gonna ice my knee now.”
Music fans have also been criticised for constantly filming live concerts and taking selfies of themselves at gigs, instead of simply living for the moment and enjoying the performance while it is on, and instead of trying to record the show, often poorly, for prosperity.
Andy Greene, an Associate Editor at Rolling Stone Magazine, said smartphones were ruining the concert-going experience.
He said he realised how much of a problem smartphones had become when he went to a Leonard Cohen concert and looked down from the balcony to see almost every seat lit up by a screen and the crowds staring at the screen, not the stage.
He told one interviewer: "And I just wanted to scream ‘Do you realize you’re watching one of the greatest songwriters ever perform some of the greatest songs ever?"
Worse still, one survey by the Ford Motor Company revealed that a third of British motorists had admitted taking a selfie behind the wheel.
Such dangerous driving behaviour is worse among young Britons than among any of six other European countries, the survey showed.
While 33 per cent of Britons aged 18-24 confessed to taking a selfie while driving, the figure for Germany was 28 per cent, with France also 28 per cent, Romania, 27 per cent, Italy 26 per cent, Spain 18 per cent and Belgium 17 per cent.
However, the Queen has had a mobile phone since 2001, when the Duke of York gave her one as a gift. He showed her how to use it and saved the numbers of other members of the Royal family in its memory.
It might be some time before the public sees a selfie taken by Her Majesty, however.