In Defense of Taking Selfies at Auschwitz and Other Depressing Places
A teenager from Alabama took a photo in front of a concentration camp where an estimated 1,000,000 people were killed. She did so while smiling. As you might have guessed, that did not sit well with the internet. In a New York Post article on the now-infamous Breanna Mitchell Auschwitz selfie, the writer quotes a particularly vitriolic response that simply said, “Did you manage to take any of you laughing inside a gas chamber or maybe one with your head stuck in a cremator?” A fair question which I don’t believe she took the time to answer.
In an instant, Breanna became as close to the Devil as you can get without being Donald Sterling. Business Insider collected some of the more amusing insults and reactionsfrom Twitter, which amounted to “fuck you” and little else. Despite this concerted effort to make her feel bad about herself, Breanna has continued to publicly defend her actions. It’s almost like she has so much self-esteem and so little self-awareness that she’d have to be the only kind of person who would be dumb enough to take a selfie at a concentration camp.
By being completely ignorant of how some would interpret her vague digital communication (the only thing that’s obvious from her photo is that she’s happy and she’s at Auschwitz. The rest is not clear), she’s influenced a global conversation on the limits of self-involvement. Some have come to her defense, reminding us all that she’s just a kid with a dead dad who shared her love of history. Others are plenty happy to keep fucking with her, which has pushed Breanna to make her Twitter page private. The internet is paying attention, and forming strong opinions about a picture she took over a month ago. Isn’t that something to be proud of? She’s already proud of herself for going to Auschwitz. Why not be proud of this too?
A fashion shoot inspired by people taking photos of themselves when they shouldn’t be taking photos of themselves.
Advice for the Twitter Professional at US Airways Who Tweeted Hardcore Porn
Late last night, someone was complaining to US Airways about a bad experience she had had with that airline. This is an entirely normal thing to do—as much as 75 percent of Twitter’s content is users bitching about airlines being awful and the airlines’ corporate Twitter accounts apologizing and asking the dissatisfied customers to fill out online complaint forms. The person running the @USAirways account followed the script when responding this afternoon, apologizing profusely and politely. Then @USAirways tweeted an extraordinarily graphic picture of a naked woman holding her legs up and apart to reveal a model airplane jammed rather immodestly into her vagina. That was not a normal thing to do. Here’s how the exchange went:
THEN THERE WAS A FUCKING PHOTO OF A LADY WITH A PLANE IN HER JUNK. (Link here, but it’s NSFW because it’s the kind of weird, vaguely funny porn that no one even masturbates to.)
Amazingly, that photo stayed online FOR A FUCKING HOUR while everyone on Twitter was like “lol” and “wtf” and “smh” and “haha now we know where Flight 370 is right? oh shit too soon my bad.” Then US Airways was like, “We apologize for an inappropriate image recently shared as a link in one of our responses. We’ve removed the tweet and are investigating,” as if there were a black box recording of a twentysomething hitting Command-V in the wrong text box, or as if there were some kind of vast conspiracy to make everyone look at a picture of some lady having carnal relations with a toy.
To see what kind of #SocialMedia and #Branding lessons could be drawn from this incident, I talked to Hanson O’Haver, the VICE Social Editor—a.k.a. the guy who runs the @VICE Twitter account.
VICE: What did the person running the US Airways do wrong? Or did they do anything wrong?
Hanson O’Haver: Well, I did a little digging and it looks like the image they posted actually came from this tweet:
If you delete a tweet where you uploaded a photo, the link would be dead, so you can tell it originates from someone else’s account, not @USAirways.
What probably happened is that they were tweeted that link, copy/pasted it to send around for laughs or for some HR report, and then went to reply to the other person’s comment. They just pasted in the link and didn’t realize that the link they had meant to use hadn’t copied.
OK, and from a social media point of view, if you’re running a corporate Twitter account, do you generally want to tweet images of hard-core, graphic pornography? Or is that more of a social media “don’t”?
I mean, yeah, that’s generally looked down upon by clients. But in terms of increasing engagement, it’s certainly effective. Put it this way: US Airways wasn’t trending nationwide before they sent an angry customer a photo of a toy plane inside a vagina.
There’s No Such Thing As Selfie Addiction
Recently, the assembled hacks at the Sunday Mirror’s headquarters were deciding how best to cover the story of Danny Bowman, a teenager diagnosed with “selfie addiction.” Taking the sensitive, appropriate route, the British tabloid sent a photographer to take lots and lots of photos of him.
Selfies are the latest trend in popular art—the cave paintings of the Age of Aquarius, only much less inspiring than anything our ancient ancestors ever produced. They combine two of the most potent forces in the modern world—computer technology and celebrity-fueled narcissism—to create a form of expression so powerful that it can literally cure cancer.
Nevertheless, with great power comes great danger, as anyone who’s watched the popular New Zealand hiking documentary Lord of the Rings will remember. In it, a ring becomes so powerful that a small man is forced to walk a very long way for reasons that are never made entirely clear before throwing the offending piece of jewellery into a volcano. Someone else becomes so corrupted by the ring’s power that he starts talking to himself, loses all his friends, and ends up developing a pretty nasty skin condition from the stress of it all.
But is it possible to be addicted to taking selfies, the way you can be addicted to alcohol or nicotine or the One Ring? The case of Danny Bowman is certainly extreme. According to the Sunday Mirror article, “He dropped out of school, didn’t leave his house in six months, lost two stone [28 pounds] trying to make himself look better for the camera, and became aggressive with his parents when they tried to stop him. Finally, in a drastic attempt to escape his obsession, Danny took an overdose—but was saved by his mum, Penny.”
Vice/Noisey asked me to send them 5 exclusive selfies because there are no more important world news stories to report on.
You can see them & read the captions: HERE
MrPimpGoodGame Is the King of the Instagram Selfie
At first glance, Benny Winfield Jr. seems like a normal 37-year-old who works as a customer-service rep, lives in the suburbs of Houston, and tutors children in his spare time. But online, he’s MrPimpGoodGame, the self-proclaimed “King of the Selfie Movement,” whose prolific Instagram gallery has garnered a cult following due to his signature look: an honest smirk and a shiny head. Although the selfie has been criticized among the ranks of pseudointellectuals, girls who watch Girls, and actual psychiatrists for its seemingly trivial implications on mainstream culture, MrPimpGoodGame takes it all at face value, because according to him, a selfie is face value.
Instead of talking to some Freudian dork about the psychosemantics of the selfie, I wanted to get in touch with a professional. So I web-chatted with MrPimpGoodGame to talk about his newfound fame, business ventures, and women.
MrPimpGoodGame: I was trying to be funny at first. I didn’t think it would take off like this.
Did you have a normal person Instagram before?
No, I’ve always been doing this because it’s what I do. My original account was PimpGoodGame and I was getting so much attention that I had to shut it down because I had co-workers on there. So then I started MrPimpGoodGame and really pushed the selfie movement.
What’s the movement about?
The selfie movement is about loving the way you look, even if you’re having a bad hair day. No matter what. It’s always appropriate to take a selfie.
Selfies - Kate Carraway’s Li’l Thinks
Illustration by Penelope Gazin
Anything that is commonly understood as the province of teenage girls or their proxies—any girl, really, with hair that has something to do and patented Dreamskin—is understood to be something dumb. A “selfie” is understood to be dumb, and it really is, but it’s also the ordering feature of the internet, or rather, of the individual internets we create and re-create daily in our own images. A selfie is a photograph taken by a person of themselves for use as an avatar, maybe, or more often for the kind of portraiture that seems gray and naked but is really a conceptually sophisticated, self-adjudicated pose and articulation; selfies are more exposing and exposed than whatever random angle another photographer might find on their or the eventual viewer’s behalf. (If that even happens anymore; if it’s even possible to have a photo taken without its subject demanding to see and approve it.)
“Selfie” is a conscious, natural pejorative; an anxious cutening of what is, essentially, a humiliation of Instagrammed self-regard. Contained in any selfie is an embrace of this type of embarrassment, or rather, an incorporation of it, where it is folded into an emboldened, satisfied who-gives-a-shitness (notably, this is also seen in the anarchic mien of barfing, smiling socialites who leave their heels stuck in sewer grates as velvety memento mori; they do good selfies). As the internet pervades even the littlest pockets of personal experience, so too has the idea that ever more specific, ever more aesthetically controlled visions of an individual—of a teenage girl with That Hair or otherwise—are virtually expected, almost required, and sort of appealing, despite the thing where everyone in a selfie is doing a Photo Booth face of smug, though adopted, insouciance, or wide-mouthed sex, or a grainy iPhone simulacrum of something approaching captured shame.