Me, My Selfie, and I

I spend a lot of time thinking about what constitutes a selfie. Because while I find the rules of selfie-taking to be self-evident and quite obvious, social media has demonstrated that actually there is no rhyme or reason or standard to the selfie, and this anarchy is enraging.

I can’t say for sure when the term selfie came into my vernacular, but some cursory Internet research (Wikipedia) marks a resurgence of self-portraiture around 2010, when the front-facing iPhone camera skipped into town. (I did not get an iPhone until November 2012, so I’m sure my selfies looked positively amateurish.)

Just last month, “selfie” charmed its way into the Oxford Dictionaries Online’s quarterly update. It’s a dubious honour; along with terms like “phablet,” “twerk,” and “emoji,” “selfie” is pretty much storming the castle to herald the end of the English language before our very eyes.

Be that as it may, I think dictionaries are pretty awesome because they tell us what words mean. And Oxford Dictionaries Online defined “selfie” as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Ok. I want to focus on one particular part of that definition. A photograph that one has taken of oneself. By those standards, this is a selfie:

hockey rink

(“Gangsta” shot. Just trying to stay warm at a hockey rink. Sorry.)

This is not a selfie:

canada day

(Taken on Canada Day a few years ago. Not sorry.)

Both of these pictures are of myself, but only one picture was taken by myself. Are we agreed that a selfie means a photo that you have taken with one of your own hands/arms? We are?

Well then, can you please explain it to social media?

Last week, Kim Kardashian made her first reappearances on social media, in a Keek video shot by Scott Disick of some stellar car-singing, and a blurry, so-called selfie taken during the same car ride. A lot of people on the Interweb have complained about the pic’s poor quality.

My beef, however, is more fundamental: This is not a selfie!

Kim Kardashian did not take that picture. She’s looking into the camera of the phone that’s in the picture (which apparently is the new iPhone 5S, 2 days before the official announcement of the new iPhones — this has Kanye written all over it). Aaaaanyway, that picture could not have been taken by her. Neither could most of these so-called celebrity selfies (some of these are nearly naked pics, so not entirely safe for work).

Am I a fool for thinking that a selfie is a self-taken portrait? Do people consider any pictures of themselves to be selfies?

Meanwhile, back at the office…

office sleep

(Selfie. Taken at work. Just now.)

The Peculiar Case of the Celebrity Instagram

The Celebrity Instagram, to me, is an incredibly puzzling thing.

I’d say that about a quarter of the people I follow on Instagram are celebrities. Now, these people don’t follow me. They don’t know me. And they never will. So I’m constantly mystified by the phenomenon that is commenting on celebrity Instagram pictures.

For many of the particularly famous accounts, Instagram is almost like a personal tabloid mechanism, but one that they control. Beyonce constantly posts pictorial responses to rumours and controversies about her: a picture of her wearing a “Can I Live?” sweatshirt after the Inauguration lip-syncing brouhaha; a picture of her sipping wine after rampant pregnancy speculation; and a “Take That Mitches” Romney dis after Obama won, which she quickly deleted.

In a really simplistic way, social media can be taken through one of two lenses: 1) this is what I’m doing and I want you to think I’m cool, or 2) my life is better than yours so you can suuuuuck it. Most of us peasants fall into the former category. And by and large, celebrities’ Instagrams strike me as the latter, by virtue of the fact that for them, Instagram is a one-way street – they post their pictures, which are met with unabashed adoration:

“I love you, be my best friend.”

“You’re gorgeous, can we hang out?”

“You’re hilarious. I love your show. You’re a cutie.”

For the most rabid of fans, Instagram, following in the footsteps of Twitter’s “I can peek in on the thoughts of famous people” ideology, is a means to try and get noticed by their favourite celebs, and a forum to make purely nonsensical comments.

TaylorSwift

I know Taylor Swift is a real sweetheart, but she probably doesn’t care that she is 11 years and 1 month older than one fan, or that another fan’s birthday is December 4. And what astounds me is that those comments have zero correlation with the picture posted.

My favourite celebrity Instagram for perusing insane comments is Kim Kardashian, because generally her pictures and captions are ridiculous, but the people following her manage to take it to a whole other level. Take this group pic that Kim posted from the Met Costume Gala, andconsider how rodmonium’s astute comment really adds something to the conversation:

photo

Like, whaaat?!?! Sometimes I read these comments and feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

Am I the only one who finds this interaction between fan and celebrity so odd and funny? As opposed to Twitter, where you only really view comments if you click directly on the tweet, Instagram comments are displayed for anyone to see and soak up the crazy. 

I’d be very curious to get the celebrity perspective. No doubt they are flattered by their photo being liked by tens of thousands of people. But do they read every comment? What do they think of them? Does Mindy Kaling say, “Hey BJ Novak, look, this person said, ‘Please get married. We all know you eventually will.’ LOL!”

At the end of the day, there is still a wall between fan and celebrity, even though social media tricks us into thinking otherwise. Instagram teaches us that celebs are just like us. They work, they play, they travel for work or pleasure, they hang out with their friends. It’s just that their lives are infinitely cooler than ours on a regular basis.

gillian jacobs

You said it, andreaisabell71.

So I’ll continue to look at celebrities’ Instagram pics, and smile when I see something cool. I don’t know if I’ll ever be compelled to comment on a picture, but maybe I’ll start liking their photos every once in awhile. Because even though I know they won’t notice me, I’ve heard that insecurity is a defining characteristic of a famous person’s personality.

LaurenConradsombrero

Lauren Conrad, your silly little sombrero hair pic only got 91,800 likes? Ok, fine, I’ll throw you a bone and make it 91,801. I know you need the validation.