October 20, 2013
Me, me, me, me! Thoughts on the Self and Social Media
As a person who takes pictures of people and posts them on social media, I was really interested in Jenna Wortham's piece on selfies in yesterday's Times. If you read my blog or follow my Instagram feed, you may have noticed that I don't post pictures of myself. And I'm starting to wonder if that's a mistake.
While I could never be a personal style blogger--I like clothes and admire when other people put them together well but wouldn't say I'm particularly distinctive in terms of style, plus I hate having my picture taken--I do admire the communities that the really successful bloggers have built. It's extremely impressive. What I admire in particular is the fine line these bloggers manage to tread, the way they make themselves seem accessible to their readers without giving out too much personal information. Which is not to say that you don't have a sense of who they really are. Quite the contrary. Looking at their photographs day after day, reading what they write, you do get to know them, albeit a carefully curated version of them. The style blogs that I most enjoy the ones where the blogger seems like someone I'd like to hang out with, and I suspect that many of those bloggers' fans feel the same way. There's a sense of connection, and that's what social media is about, right? Finding like-minded people who share our interests and perspective?
Wortham writes, "We are swiftly becoming accustomed to--and perhaps even starting to prefer--online conversations and interactions that revolve around images and photos," a contention with which I totally agree. Instagram has close to 150 million monthly users worldwide, and Facebook has over a billion. I don't know how many pictures that amounts to every month, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that it's a large number. And while, as I mentioned earlier, I hate both taking my own picture and having it taken by others, I have noticed that when pictures of me appear on Facebook people really respond. According to Wortham, "Selfies strongly suggest that the world we observe through social media is more interesting when people insert themselves into it."
So of course I find myself wondering: Should there be more of me on my blog? And if so, how would that manifest itself, since pictures of my daily outfits are not an option? Right now I'm wearing yoga pants, a black long-sleeved T-shirt, a black cashmere sweater, a black knit cap from North Face and bright blue Sauconys. My hair is in braids. You see the problem.
Of course, more of me doesn't necessarily have to be pictures. I've also noticed--again on Facebook--that when I post status updates that aren't necessarily personal but that sound like me, people tend to like them. But how much information is too much information? And how often is too often? We all grumble about not wanting to be on Facebook because it's hard to deal with the constant stream of friends, acquaintances, and family posting about their wonderful lives, or making endlessly witty comments, or whatever it is that we happen to be grumbling about at any given moment. And while we all know that nobody's life is wonderful all the time, it's hard to remember that when you've had a long, shitty day at work, and everybody else seems to be on vacation on some island in Greece or being clever about a new restaurant where they're having dinner and where you couldn't possibly get a table. Believe me, I hear your sad song.
Still, we keep going back. Why? What inspires you to read blogs and spend on time interacting through other social media? If you have a blog, why do you keep at it? (This is a question I ask myself ALL THE TIME.) What do you think about Wortham's suggestion that we see selfies "for what they are at their best--a kind of visual diary, a way to mark our short existence and hold it up to others as proof that we were here"? Why do we need that proof, and how is what we do with that proof changed by the very fact of social media?
In short, I have questions. Give me your answers.