Today, an app called Selfie was made available to the public. The app is essentially a social messaging platform whose primary medium is video, allowing users to chat at one another by recording 24-second "selfies" of themselves. The Verge described the app's appeal thusly:
Users are answering questions seeking legal and medical help, flirting, and sharing random events from their lives. [co-founder Alex] Lasky says the fact that you have to post a video of yourself in order to reply has led to more civil discussions than you would otherwise expect. "It’s a place where people treat each other with more respect," he says. "There’s a social responsibility to be nice to people, because you’re face to face. That’s what we thought was missing."
I actually knew about Selfie well before its launch, because I got an invite to the Beta test, and promptly turned it into an idiotic performance art piece.
I have to confess that I think that social media is basically a con. We gain little insight about the people we're interacting with, as everything about said interactions is so heavily manicured by the users that it ends up feeling like a conversation between year book photos comprised entirely of yearbook signatures. Which is why my Facebook status updates range from inane to surreal. Mostly inane. Here's just a sample:
As you can see, I think the whole notion that you could "know" me via the internet is kind of silly. But Facebook is good for yuks every once in a while. So when I got an invite to Selfie, I stepped into it a little bit to see what was going on, I thought to myself "ok, I am in a closed community that is relatively small. What is the weirdest use I can find for this thing?"
I started by trying to find a the least descriptive username I could. Shockingly, the owners had left the name "@selfie" available. Perfect. In my name field, I called myself "Dr. Selfie," which I think was a subconscious nod to Vincent Price's The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Next, I did a test selfie, which was my face obscured by darkness, rocking back and forth on the creeky floor in my bedroom while I set my alarm for the next morning. Without really meaning to, the video came out really creepy. Like a crazy person's instagram. Now is a good time to note that my instagram is largely blurry pictures of snow and cushion patterns.
Unfortunately, one major feature that Selfie lacks is that I can't post my videos online, so I can't show you just how weird it was from the beginning, but since the app allows people to respond to videos, my first one got a response from a couple of users saying that they thought my video was kind unsettling and asking me who I was. I decided to respond by pointing my phone at a text-to-speech program online saying in the creepy monotone of a robot "I am Dr. Selfie."
From there, I was off to the races. One of my selfies was in the recording studio with the tone generator we use to bleep swear words on at full blast. After a user named @whatever asked for some music recommendations, I posted a video of the album Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House, called "Screams and Groans." One was a weird drawing I did, with Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" playing in the background. I had grand plans to tie all of my videos together into an ongoing narrative about a man who is haunted by the supernatural, helpless againt malevolent forces bent on his destruction.
It was around this time I must have drawn the attention of Selfie Co-Founder Alex Lasky, because I received this email:
I kind of wanted to record the whole thing to see if it could end up being an episode of TLDR - the weird online misadventures of Dr. Selfie. But at some point that evening, Lasky took matters into his own hands and renamed me without my permission. Dr. Selfie suddenly became "Dr. SAlfie" [sic]
It was at this point that I started losing interest in Selfie. You can only remain interested for so long in a platform that you are engaging in as disengenuously as I was. I only posted two more Selfies after being so ignominiously renamed. The first was a bizarre window display that had a broadsword, elk horns, american flags, and human skulls. I hacked and grunted in the background as I filmed it. To my surprise, Lasky himself responded to the video. He was in what looked like a loud Manhattan bar, saying "Hey, Dr. Salfie. Show us a face." I responded with a Selfie that said "ok, fine. Sorry to be so circumspect. Here I am!" and was just me tilting my head slightly, staring into the camera, wearing an elephant mascot mask.
I suppose that all of this pushing on the limits of social platforms is just idle curiousity. I like to see what the users of a platform will put up with and what they will outright reject. But in the case of Selfie, my schtick got old pretty quick, and the platform just kind of lost interest in me. But if you end up giving this app a spin around the block, try and find me. You never know when Dr. SAlfie, the benign phantom of Selfie might pop up again.