Micro-microcelebrity: Famous Babies and Business on the Internet

Ten years ago, as a teenager in junior college, I often heard my peers exchanging updates of what a group of girls had recently purchased, worn or experienced. They could recall the names of their boyfriends, the restaurants they’d been to over the weekend, and details of their latest fashion purchases. I soon learned that these girls did not go to my college, nor were they friends of my peers. In fact, my peers had never met these girls in the flesh; they were simply bloggers writing about their lives on the internet. The allure of such bloggers and the intimacies their followers expressed towards them and among each other intrigued me so much, that, when I became an anthropologist later on in life, I made these internet personalities the focus of my research.

Continue reading Micro-microcelebrity: Famous Babies and Business on the Internet

A few shifts in the Influencer industry

Today, Instagram decided to introduce “Stories“. Admittedly a copy of Snapchat’s Stories, Instagram writes:

With Instagram Stories, you don’t have to worry about overposting. Instead, you can share as much as you want throughout the day — with as much creativity as you want. […]

Instagram has always been a place to share the moments you want to remember. Now you can share your highlights and everything in between, too.

This signals two things to me:

1) The curation rhetoric of Instagram as a regulated repository with optimum posting times and frequencies to maximize viewer perception is being acknowledged. Instagram wants us to break out of this normative practice popularized by its top Influencer Instagrammers so that more content will be shared more frequently.

2) The curation rhetoric of Instagram as a highlight reel for only one’s “best images” is being acknowledged. Instagram wants us to contentdump on its platform instead of cross-platforming (over to Snapchat!) to post our mass of “non-Insta worthy” frivolous content.

I have some thoughts. Continue reading A few shifts in the Influencer industry

#thoughtsandprayers, Grief hype-jacking, and Saturation fatigue

It’s been an agonising series of weeks after a string of grievous events in various parts of the world. While I have been tracing vernacular responses to global grieving events on Instagram since 2014 – some of the case studies are archived here – this has been difficult to do of late between my personal loss and the onslaught of public grieving. Self-care first, right?

Of late, global tributes on trending hashtags have been featuring a more prominent disdain for, rejection of, and critique on public grieving in memes and thoughts&prayers en masse. Continue reading #thoughtsandprayers, Grief hype-jacking, and Saturation fatigue

The First Hour Post-#JakartaBlasts on Instagram.

On 14 January 2016 at 1155hrs (GMT+8), the first of several bomb blasts (and later, gun battles on the street) took place in Jakarta outside a Starbucks coffee shop in Sarinah, Thamrin, Jakarta.

(Rolling report from The Guardian here. Timeline of “extremist attacks” in Indonesia here.)

Although international news outlets are now (2300hrs, GMT+8) mainstreaming the “#JakartaBlasts” hashtag on Twitter, in the very earliest hour, vernacular emergence of hashtags on Instagram differed.

I track the initial hashtags that emerged on Instagram from (primarily) Indonesian users (based on brief user bios, language used, and context given) between 1200hrs and 1330hrs, and handcode the earliest Instagram posts.

Screenshots taken from public Instagram hashtag streams on 14 January 2016, 1300hrs, GMT+8.

Hashtags

image39.jpeg

The first hashtags that emerged were the usual social movement tropes in the form of #PrayForX and the #Locale of the incident. #PrayForJakarta and #PrayForIndonesia debuted alongside #Sarinah and #SarinahThamrin.

The next were #JagaJakarta (take care Jakarta), #SaveJakarta, #StaySafeJakarta, and #SaveIndonesia.

#KamiTidakTakut (I am not afraid), #JakartaUnderAttack, and #DoaUntukJakarta (pray for Jakarta) were the last to emerge in the first hour.

Several high circulating posts on social media have asserted that Indonesians are primarily using the #KamiTidakTakut tag to express solidarity and their stand during this incident.

However, Instagram posts on this tag predate the Jakarta Blasts by months. In the first hour post-blast, there were only 222 Instagram posts on the #KamiTidakTakut tag, of which only 6 were related to the Jakarta Blasts. Most of the earlier posts were in relation to sporting events.

image34.jpeg

PrayForJakarta

There were four main categories of PrayForJakarta posts.

The first was text posts bearing “PrayForJakarta” in various fonts.

The second was “PrayForJakarta” text against images of the blasts.

The third was “PrayForJakarta” text against images of the Indonesian landmarks.

The fourth was “PrayForJakarta” text with artwork or photography.

Monumen Nasional

Monumen Nasional (Monas) became the iconic Jakarta emblem to circulate during the incident.

Monas was photographed in daylight,

at night time,

and beautifully illustrated.

National Icons

Well-wishes and prayers were captioned under Jakarta’s iconic cityscape,

the Indonesian flag,

and tigers.

Live Media Coverage

Like in recent disasters, a vast majority of posts were reposts from live media coverage.

This included photographic captures of television screens,

screenshots of news websites,

and screenshots from Twitter.

Live Ground Coverage (trigger warning)

Most strikingly, several Instagram posts featured what appeared to be eye-witness accounts at the site of the blast. This included aerial views of the traffic, bloodied victims, damaged concrete, and stray photographers.

Mixed reactions

Smaller thematic streams presented mixed reactions.

Some of these were anti-terrorist sentiments,

some were messages of resilience and anger,

while others were selfies with captions bearing prayers or tributes.

But perhaps the most troubling were seemingly opportunistic posts jumping onto the hashtag bandwagon, in order to market wares or attract traffic to their Instagram accounts.

A handful of backdated posts, like the following, were even edited to include trending hashtags to increase visibility.

Emblems

As with most disasters and social movements, reactions to the Jakarta Blasts also borrowed from broader global emblems such as:

The peace sign,

The ribbon,

_

Keep Calm,

and prayer.

Curiously, a handful of Instagram posts also featured animations of bombs, akin to the rifles of #CharlieHedbo.

See also Instagram during
#SanBernardino,
#PorteOuverte,
#JeSuisAhmed and #CharlieHedbo,
and #OccupyCentral.

Over and out,
wishcrys.