Let me first admit that this post is a bit judgmental, but as I write this and judge others, I will happily and honestly judge myself as well. My first self-judgment is an admittance that I’ve become nosy as hell because of the access to people’s lives that the Internet and social media allow. I’m a storyteller, and I love a good story. Whether we realize it or not, many of us are telling stories (even fictitious ones) about our lives. So trust, I’m all up in your Instagram-Twitter-Facebook feeds, scrolling and seeing what’s up with you. My biggest guilty pleasure is stumbling upon the pages of strangers who may be connected to me in some sort of peculiar, six-degrees-of-separation way.
So yesterday, while on Facebook decompressing from a long day, I clicked on the page of a friend and noted new people he’d just “friended.” One belonged to a woman that was foine. Her profile photo was of the “take a picture of me looking back at it, so I can make sure the onlooker is witnessing the majesty of my face and ass” variety. (Self-judgment two is admitting I know that pose because I’ve performed it too.) So of course I clicked on her page, because Black girl fineness should be appreciated and celebrated by the masses.
Now I’m scrolling ’cause I’m nosy, and seeing alluring photo after alluring photo. Not alluring in the “here’s a video of me twerking and riding the pole” sense, but in the sultry “come hither” sense that many a lady and gent use when s/he is prepping for the ultimate selfie. More scrolling. And I see a status update that says, essentially, that the people who view her page have Facebook confused with Tinder, and that folks need to stop hitting on her.
Naturally, because of the pics, my first response was, “okay girl… I guess.” But I actually became more and more curious as I sat there reading. I thought about how difficult it’s become to interact and date in the digital age, how technology has brought us closer but has also confused us immensely.
Most of us spend much of our days trying to decipher the meanings and feelings behind texts, emails and sub-tweets. It’s very true that the woman I ran across on Facebook and know absolutely nothing about (self-judgment three: my Shifu would be ashamed that I’m judging anyone, let alone someone I don’t know at all) may very well not be looking for attention, even if she’s posting provocative photos. Maybe she only wants the attention of certain people and is annoyed by everyone else. I have no idea.
But I think it’s a bit foolish to put oneself out there in such a way and pretend to be surprised by the comments that come as a result.
We’re constantly being told how bad the “selfie revolution” is for our mental health and wellbeing. I personally believe that people take self-portraits for all kinds of reasons. I know women who’ve gone their entire lives being self-conscious about their looks and bodies, and post selfies as acts of courage and self-acceptance. I also know women (and men) who post photos of themselves because they are setting. them. thirsttraps.
Listen, I’m not judging either way (self-judgment four is that sometimes, on the right night, with the right lipstick and heels on, I too be settin’ thirst traps like a mug). That’s kind of what selfies are for. As Erin Gloria Ryan writes here, “self-taken digital portraits are typically posted on social media, ostensibly with the intent of getting people to respond to them—that’s what social media is.” My side eye came as a result of the woman I’m speaking of pretending that she didn’t know what was up.
Understand, I’m not asserting that harassment—via social media or in the streets—is acceptable, or that the way a woman dresses should make her vulnerable to being harassed or harmed. But the whole “I’m going to post everything I can to garner attention, then pretend I detest it” game is both oxymoronic and moronic. We can certainly decline the comments and advances made, but we look ridiculous when we act like we’re surprised there are comments and advances.
Interestingly, I think the digital age has made us the most confident and insecure we’ve ever been. It also makes us some of the worse communicators ever, especially as what we feel and what we project rarely coincide.
So much for technology and social media making mingling easier, eh?
Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic and solider of love. Follow her musings on Twitter @jonubian.