It used to be "keeping up with the Joneses", now it's keeping up with and out-doing your 3,000 friends online. Posting, sharing, streaming, following and uploading everything we do is about is as second nature as brushing your teeth. Anyone under 30 knows that iPhones are now a part of table settings and Instagram breaks are an understood, undisputed part of both work and time with friends. We view our world through the lens of our camera phones and social media.
I think one of the beautiful things about connecting via our online networks is that we can and should be able to share whatever we want- even if it's only the "Kodak" moments. Sharing the highlights and keeping in touch with friends and family is certainly the primary use of our Facebook, but how do we know when we are sharing too much? And importantly, who can we trust to give us an intervention on sharing etiquette if we need it?
My generation (already known for being entitled and self-absorbed) took the lead on using social media as the perfect vehicle for over-doing the self-promotion. And then, somewhere around the time Instagram became popular a couple years ago, everyone could take a great photo and "selfies" started to take over. I know people who have taken literally hundreds of selfies (and that doesn't include the 20 out-takes per photo that didn't make the cut).
Scary enough, I am almost numb to the shock value of the over-sharing of some people's posts. I have a lot of model friends on Facebook and they never hesitate to post a topless or nearly nude photo of themselves. A while ago, an older gentleman sitting next to me on an airplane did a double-take at my phone once as I was thumbing through my Facebook feed before we took off. It was embarrassing- I think he thought I was looking at something way raunchier than my Facebook. I put the phone away, limited their posts from my newsfeed and now only check Twitter before take-off and someone is sitting next to me.
But, I will admit, I am not perfect either. I've been known to post a few unnecessary photos of myself and from my modeling jobs. I cringe a bit when I look back at some of the posts from my past. I have a few new rules that I follow before posting selfies and photos in general, and it all started because (thankfully) someone called me out. Let me start by sharing that personal story… and the photo.
Almost two years ago now, my boyfriend could no longer hold in his feelings about my posting habits, and it was the above double-selfie that finally made him say something. This seemingly harmless photo was one of many my girlfriend Karalyn and I had taken in about a two week span doing such exciting things such as drinking coffee and sitting in front of our computers. The one above was posted around 10am on a Tuesday morning after we just went for a run on the beach and got a Starbucks. Totally worth sharing, right?
Yeah, no. We achieved a grand total of five "likes" on the above selfie, two of them from our boyfriends, probably out of sympathy.
My boyfriend delicately said to me, "You do realize that most people are at work on 10am on a Tuesday morning, right? Not going running on the beach, going for Starbucks and Instagramming photos of themselves. " I was slightly offended.
Defending my alternative lifestyle and job I said, "Yeah, but I am not most people and I didn't have work that morning. That's how we spent our time together in Miami on our days we weren't working- better than one of the other things we could be doing in Miami, right? "
Then he said something so wise to me that I will never forget it. It shaped the way I post content on my Facebook, blog and even how I talk to people in person.
"Instead of trying to be interesting, try to be more interested."
Ok. Ok. I get it. I needed someone to tell me this. It wasn't just about that one particular selfie, it was everything I posted and was about to post. And frankly, a lot of my generation and the younger needs someone to tell them this too. Lets be real, social media makes it impossible to be truly interested in thousands of friends, but it is easy to try and be interesting to all of them. Is it even possible to have enough time in the day to truly care about that many online friends?
Karalyn and I posted a very mild seflie compared to some of the others out there, and we learned that no one really cared that much about what we were doing as much as us. Luckily, Karalyn and I rose from the gutter and stopped posting dumb things.
It's ridiculously easy and tempting for us to post pictures and video of everything- from our food we are eating to our view from where we are sitting at that moment. We can, and we will post everything we do. Why not? Where are the limits? And everyone else is doing it- from celebrities to my Mom. The magic of Instagram makes it hard to take a bad photo anymore, which leads me into my next topic, the selfie.
The Selfie Epidemic
Can you imagine if our parents posted selfie's of them running on the beach with their Starbucks?!!! I am not sure my mom even knows what a selfie is, and I am glad for this. The selfie, in a way, is the perfect way for the "me" generation to display their love for themselves and every fabulous thing they do to a large audience. That audience can reward their efforts with a quick "like" fueling the need to post more. I even see attempts to justify the purpose of frequent selfie's by writing a bible verse beneath. What is going on? I believe these are good people at heart, they just need an intervention... and something better to focus on. It's an epidemic.
Frequent selfies taken in the vain of just showing off your beautiful face/lips/bikini are sending a message that most everyone gets except the offending selfie-taker. It means the person needs validation to make up for something they are missing… a boyfriend, love, family, a hobby, belonging, something better to do with their time.
As unbelievable as the following tips may be to some, I wrote them because I see selfie's posted like this almost every day. Here are my five tips for when you should absolutely NOT upload your selfie:
1: If the focus of the selfie is just to share your face (or body) and how hot you look today.
2: If your clothes are off or barely there.
3: If you have already posted one or more selfies that week.
4: If your mom, dad or unborn children would be shocked, ashamed or embarrassed by it. (I'm talking about suggestive or barely clothed photos and drinking photos)
5: If you are driving a car. Please, for the safely of yourself and others, stop!!!
We all know you are beautiful and can take a great daily Selfie, but there has to be a limit. What else can you contribute to the endless stream of content that is helpful, meaningful, good for the world or actually interesting?
The Acceptable Selfie
Sometimes, a selfie is totally acceptable. Lets say you climbed a mountain and there is no one else up there to take a photo of you. Or maybe you're with your boyfriend, best friend or family member and you want to document a particularly special moment in time worth sharing. Or maybe your Grandma knitted you a sweater and sent it from Montana, you got a new puppy, you're under the Eiffel Tower, or you got engaged… Yes! Take a big 'ol selfie of all of this. I would.
I also think it is perfectly fine to take a (smiling) selfie for the purpose of being your Profile Picture. I think people expect it, because it actually is one of the best ways to get a decent photo of yourself without hiring a photographer and it feels "real". You should feel good about the profile photo that represents who you are online, and taking it yourself is a way to make sure it turns out the way you want it.
When you do feel a need to post a selfie, try to include another human or animal in it when possible or make sure you're doing something of interest to anyone other than you. Captioning it is equally important. Hashtag it with something relevant that a person would actually search for. Don't make up some hashtag just to humble brag about your photo. And this should be obvious, but you can't upload a chesty photo of yourself holding your baby niece and title it #nomakeup. Yes, this happened.
Etiquette in Posting for 2013
First, if you're over 30, you most likely don't need help. You have wisdom, common sense and real friends that exist offline who validate your existence on earth.
If you are under 30 and single, you're in the high risk category for oversharing and taking selfies.
If you are pretty, good looking, a model, celebrity, has-been celebrity or wanna-be celebrity, you're in the red zone category. Read this NY Times study on how Twitter/Instagram and Facebook fuels narcissism.
For what it's worth, think of each and every one of your posts as a forever journal for your entire family, your empemployers, your kids, your kids' kids' kids to know who you were at this point in time. Hypothetically thinking, imagine your ten year old girl looking back at your Facebook Timeline of your last photo you posted and saying that she wants to be just like you in that photo. Post things that will help you get hired, inspire others and share content that makes us all smarter or gives us a good laugh. Share the things that make our world better, not dumber!
Hashtags are not your license to brag or communicate something too vain to put in an actual sentence with a capital letter and a period.
Twenty years ago, when our parents were our age, they did just as many crazy things as we did. The difference is, they didn't have the ability to post everything online and have it come back to haunt them. Now, nothing is forgotten and your digital footprint is there forever.
Post things that are Humble, Happy or Helpful.