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Miss Netiquette’s guide to self respect and selfies

miss netiquettes guide to self respect and selfies netiquette 08 17 2013 header

The Internet is a wonderful if confusing world – and that’s why you sometimes need to be pointed in the right direction. Lucky for you, some of us spend far too much time online and logged in – and that wealth of experience translates into some social networking know-how. Consider Miss Netiquette (who you can reach at your guide to Web manners, and this week, she’s going to give you some tips on how to dive into social media without losing your self respect.

Using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social sites is a lot of fun. But looking at the digital highlight reels from other people’s lives can make you feel like yours isn’t good enough, or like you have to compete with your friends to have the most picture-perfect life. A lot of our behavior on social media is driven by a genuine desire to connect with others, network, and have fun, but sometimes we get a little too caught up in perfecting our online personas. Self-promotion has its place in social media – and while the occasional selfie won’t turn you into a raging narcissist, it’s really easy to get swept up into craving that positive feedback loop that likes, favorites, and comments provide, so much so that you’ll start posting stuff just to get likes instead of stuff you like.

The following questions all share a theme: they reminded me that there’s a fine line between putting yourself out there and putting your self respect below your need to be seen. 

Dear Miss Netiquette: So I’m a 16 year old guy and I got an Instagram account yesterday. I’ve posted three pics, all of myself (only one a selfie though) and I don’t in any way want to look narcissistic! And like most people my age I want to become uberfamous by Instagram. I’m the last person to boast but I am pretty good looking, so people wouldn’t wince with disgust upon seeing a photo of me, but I’m also quite into photography. Not with my phone or compact camera, but proper ‘semi pro’ stuff. So anyways I just wanted to see if you had any advice for me to start my Instagram days in a positive way and aim make my account appear far from begging for followers, but somehow having its own impressive amount of followings, due to the genuine content of my photos. 

There are a number of ways you can organically boost engagement on Instagram; Digital Trends covers it in our guide to getting Instagram famous, but I’ll summarize quickly for you: Use relevant hashtags, find small communities of like-minded IG users, and engage with them (oh, and don’t overwhelm people by posting too many pictures a day).

You don’t say what sort of photography you specialize in, but if it’s landscapes, for instance, look for groups that are also really into that. Look for popular Instagram users you respect and reach out to them.

And of course, don’t take it too seriously. The desire to be recognized is an extremely human impulse, and it doesn’t mean you’re narcissistic. You can work on cultivating your profile, but make sure you’re also working on cultivating more than just a collection of images of your life – work on living your actual life by studying, spending time with IRL friends, and engaging in hobbies beyond persona curating.  

Dear Miss Netiquette: I take a lot of pictures of myself and put them on Instagram because I want to be a model. I am a 17 year old from Minnesota and there’s not much for me to do here, so I hope that Instagram will help people in New York and bigger cities notice me. People have already started commenting a lot, and a talent agent commented and asked for my email. Then they asked if I could email full body shots. I am worried that it’s a scam artist because I can’t find them on Google. 

Any reputable talent agent will be able to provide you with plenty of proof that they are who they say they are. Politely ask if you can verify their credentials before you do anything. I don’t know exactly what you mean when you say “full body” shot, but absolutely do not send them photos of yourself undressed or in your underwear. If they just mean that they want a head-to-toe photo, that’s less sketchy, but again, do not send anything until you verify that they are who they say they are. I’d recommend talking this over with your parents as well. Make sure you don’t give any personal information to this person until you have confirmed that they are an actual talent agent. There are a lot of total dirtbags online. 

Dear Miss Netiquette: My little sister posts selfies on Facebook and Instagram every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. Occasionally she’s with a friend, but they’re always the same tacky front-facing camera shots, often in the bathroom. I’m embarrassed for her but I don’t want to offend her.

Listen, you and your sister are different people. And no matter how much you hate her constant selfie-taking, you’re not in charge of her social media accounts. If you want her to think you’re a dick, go ahead and tell her you find her pictures embarrassing. Even if you phrase it nicely (“people my age don’t really like it when our Facebook friends post a bunch of pictures in a row”) she’s probably not going to be super receptive, especially if you aren’t close. As long as she’s not posting naked pictures or photos of herself smoking weed or engaging in illegal activities, I’d say just block her stories from your News Feed and get on with your life. 

Dear Miss Netiquette: I am home for the summer, and I just finished sophomore year. My parents required me to be friends with them on Facebook and they said they’re going to stop paying for my phone if I post any photos of myself in my bikini or with guys they don’t know. I think they’re being psycho. I am 20 years old! Can they even do that? 

They’re definitely being overprotective, but guess what? If you don’t like it, get a job and pay for your own damn phone. 

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Miss Netiquette
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Miss Netiquette is here to answer all your burning Web and social media-related questions. Ask away by emailing her at…
Justin Bieber’s new selfie app exists because … why?
justin bieber app launched terrible

The day has finally arrived, and the Justin Bieber app is here. It’s true, now you too can download Shots of Me, the all-selfies-all-the-time app of which Bieber serves as lead investor. There isn’t much to the app: No filters, no gaming mechanics, no reward system. It’s just a feed of selfies, with the simple accessories of private messaging and hashtags.
My gut instinct tells me to rip this thing apart, complete with a scathing critique of the generational pit of narcissism we’re continuing to fall into. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – at least these apps put on a little pretense. We can pretend to not be entirely self-obsessed there; but with the new, twisted, strangely growing crew of selfie-only apps, we’re just throwing in the towel.
This is the one selfie I could bring myself to take with Shots of Me. #whyamidoingthis
And of course, Shots of Me is simultaneously tainted and bolstered by Bieber, who’s a scummy, social pariah to some, and a beloved, talented artist to others. (And he likes to make this face in his selfies. A lot.)
Really, were he not “lead investor,” Shots of Me would’ve faded just as fast with as our week-long fascination with (Already forgot? That’s OK, just get back to your Instagramming.)
But you can’t discount the Bieber factor, and you can’t judge an app by its screenshots: In the interest of Internet, here we go. 
Shots of Me app is comprised of shots of you and people you follow. You login, create your own account or use your Twitter login, and are then prompted to scroll through the feed of faces (which, when I downloaded and did some browsing, were mostly of its creator, John Shahidi), and to add your own. You have an inbox where people can message you, and an arrow icon surfaces a banner that houses news (new friends, Likes, etc), a link to your profile, a function to find friends, and your settings. 
Opening up the camera automatically uses your front-facing camera, so you're selfie-ready. When you take and upload a selfie, it is seriously no frills: No filters, no crop, no rotate. 
That's it. 
Really, the only significant problem with this app is that it is utterly redundant. If you want to use a selfie-loving app for Hot or Not-esque sprees, there's Tinder. If you want to see touched up, beautiful (if deceiving) self-portraits, there's Instagram. If you want to share weird, digitally-drawn-on selfies that disappear, there's Snapchat, or even the new app. All of these have a thing, a hook that makes them unique. What does Shots of Me have? 
Bieber. Shots of Me has Bieber – who, by all accounts, is a selfish, disrespectful, brothel-going teenager who's already made far too much money (and spent a ludicrous amount on these types of pants). That's its hook. Shots of Me feels like the worst culmination of Selfie Culture (which has become a real thing despite my many attempts to kill it and kill it fast): It's attached itself to a young, petulant star, and its only focus is on your face. You can't blame anyone developing these types of apps – give the people what they want! 
Only maybe we shouldn't give the people want they want because the people already know what they want and have figured out better ways to get what they want. We're already so bogged down in the stuff that one more app – one that doesn't add anything interesting or new to the conversation (besides Bieber!) – isn't necessary. 
And not to harp on the whole "we're a generation of narcissists!" thing, but we truly, deeply are. There's a line of thinking that the smartphone camera will have a similar effect on society as the mirror did; the mirror! Can you imagine how our psyches would have formed if we'd never found much value in looking at reflections of ourselves? If we didn't do it every morning? We're already too deep in, obviously, and same goes for selfies, but there is an opportunity for invention here. Make the selfie better! Make it different! You can't make us less self-obsessed, but you can try and create something interesting out of that self-obsession. 
Shots of Me does neither of those things. Instead, it just hinges itself to a rather upsetting young person and adds yet another drop in the bucket of a completely saturated market. 

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London firefighters start safety campaign using selfies
london firefighters use selfies as fire safety education tools alarm

Seeing people in uniform take selfies is generally amusing because the pictures provide a glimpse at the person underneath the authority. And that humanizing element is why police departments are starting to ban cop selfies -- they don't want to undermine the seriousness of the office. 
But the London Fire Brigade is taking a more positive approach to selfies, and instead of banning them, they're using them to spread fire safety awareness leading up to a firefighter's strike on September 25. The strike will last for four hours and there is a contingency plan, so it's highly unlikely that there will be an uptick in fires without firefighters, but the department is using this opportunity to remind people about fire safety.  
The brigade is asking people on social media to tag photos of themselves taking steps to prevent fires. In a press release, the brigade encouraged photos of users testing their smoke alarms, keeping an eye on their cooking, properly disposing of cigarettes, and taking other preventative measures. Users who take these pictures are asked to tag them #safetyselfie. Hundreds have been posted to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, some by members of the fire brigade, and others from people who like the campaign. 

Desperate for 5.30? Before you hit London town, make sure your hair straighteners are unplugged #safetyselfie
— London Fire Brigade (@LondonFire) September 20, 2013

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Hong Kong marathon launches anti-selfie campaign in bid to prevent injuries
hong kong marathon launches anti selfie campaign to prevent injuries runners

I guess there’s a good time and a bad time to snap a selfie. Taking one at the start of a 10k run with 30,000 competitors behind you clearly falls into the latter category, as triathlete Joyce Cheung Ting-yan discovered earlier this year in Hong Kong.
According to the South China Morning Post, Cheung’s unwise decision to suddenly stop and take out her smartphone camera during the race in February resulted in a mass pile-up of runners “which saw many competitors cross the finish line bloodied and bruised.”
Fearing a repeat of the incident at next year’s event – one of three major running contests that includes the Hong Kong marathon – race organizers have already launched a campaign discouraging runners from using their handsets while running. They’re even considering banning phones altogether.
“The problem was that a number of runners were trying to take self-portrait pictures using their smartphones,” Benjamin Hung Pi-cheng, boss of sponsor Standard Chartered Bank, told the Post. “It not only endangers themselves but endangers a lot of people running behind them.”
Hung is urging runners to “apply a little bit of common sense and discipline” during the race.
Organizers of the event have already embarked on an anti-selfie campaign using Facebook, TV and radio to spread the word. Officials are even expected to line the route holding up message boards warning people not to take photos during the race.
They may have a real challenge on their hands, however, as a recent report revealed that selfies are now the most popular genre of photography. Will runners at next year’s event really be able to resist using their handset to snap a sneaky self-portrait along the way?
As for Joyce Cheung Ting-yan, she may well be tempted to once again whip out her phone in an effort to engineer a repeat of last year’s carnage – she did, after all, go on to win the race.
[Via AFP / SCMP] [Image: Ostill / Shutterstock]

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