You Can No Longer Trust The Mirror Selfies.
Influencers are not your friends. But they sure want to seem like they are.
There are several types of people who decry social media.
Some of them bring peer-reviewed articles and facts. These people are usually accurate and justified, and sometimes annoying at parties.
There are those who loudly proclaim their dissatisfaction with social media on social media. These people usually end up on some side of this meme.
Yet some others have the manic energy of the fire-and-brimstone preacher screaming over the din of passing traffic at a busy intersection. Warning about moral corruption, Satan wrought by Instagram ad algorithms, and the generic end of times.
We mostly just ignore these people.
By now, one way or the other, we all know the basics - the good, the bad, the influencer parts of social media. Social media and real-life had an ugly divorce and we all heard about it.
So most of us know what pitfalls to avoid, what monsters lurk in between the memes and the viral challenge videos you’re friends are doing. The wolves hiding in granny’s clothes on your timeline usually have a brand deal, edited photos, and sponsored content. Healthy online habits
But even with all the awareness, even with ex-influencers like Danae Mercer fighting the valiant fight every day to shed more light on the extent of the reality-social media disparity like this -
There remain deeper depths of deception to discover beneath the veneer of deception that we have learned to recognize.
This may sound melodramatic and hyperbolic, but I am not sure how else to capture my reaction when I learned that most influencer “mirror selfies” rarely involve mirrors at all.
It all started with this tik-tok
In 12 seconds, Tik Tok influencer Kara del Toro changed my life in this microscopic way. “There here’s the secret: there’s no mirror,” said Kara, not knowing the ways in which she had begun to ruin my day, “All you need is a second phone or spare camera.”
And Kara brought the receipts. “I’ve literally done this for ages on all my Instagram posts,” she said, tagging this photo as evidence.
Before this revelation I would have never asked myself, "Now is that phone in her hand entirely unrelated to the photo being taken."
I would have simply accepted that while lounging beautifully in a bikini and amazing body, Kara also had an impeccably clean mirror and perfect accidental lighting.
This is one of those things that once you see, you can never unsee. As one Reddit user so eloquently put it -
Me too, u/ffrhcp, me too.
And the question this, ofcourse, leads to most is why.
Why this unnecessary deception? The people accused of this grand ploy are already the rich and beautiful inhabitants of the internet elite, their photos professionally edited, curated, and monetized. This additional lie seems both unnecessary and overkill.
The answer is very simple and also obvious. You get better photos with a professional setup.
No matter how good Tim Cook makes the next iPhone camera, it cannot compare to full-frontal lighting and a DSLR. It’s art direction. You can eliminate shadows, get your best angles, and still look like you’re casually hanging out in your bedroom.
But why not eliminate the useless phone then? Why not lean into the extra, give credit to your hardworking tripod set up, and lean into the theatrics of elaborately staging normal life on social media? Well, then that would simply ruin the point of the effort.
The held phone is essential for the intended impact of the photo, it is the artistic choice and linchpin of this deception. The phone makes the photo seem casual, intimate, and authentic. That is, after all, the point of the mirror selfie - to present a glimpse into the everyday, interior lives of the people who exist primarily on our phone screens.
“I am not selling you anything,” the mirror selfie says nonchalantly, “this is just who I am in this very moment in my day.”
The mirror selfie draws you in, makes you feel like you’re seeing the person as they see themselves. And in the case of celebrities, influencers, and that one very hot person from your high school who you always wished you had spoken to - makes you feel like you know them in some small way, makes you feel added to this tiny moment in their daily life. The more you feel like you know them, the more you like them and the more you are likely to buy things from them.
Here, the phone in hand is definitely worth far more in image marketing, than two professional photo shoots in the (figurative or literal) bush
It is a very smart choice. I admit this to myself while a slow acceptance descends over me that I can no longer trust even the most innocuous detail of virtual interaction. It also explains why our mirrors never seem as clean or flattering as the magical celebrity mirrors.
Now I have to emphasize that I don’t say any of this in an entirely critical way. Don’t get me wrong, it is laughably unnecessary, and more than likely contributes to the daily insecurity and self-hate farming that social media enables. But seen from another lens, it is performance art.
Social media is largely constructed, structured reality meant to preserve and present aesthetics and ideals over reality. We are presented with this fact near constantly. So most times we are sold the aesthetics of nonchalance and authenticity over actual nonchalance and authenticity. The mirror selfie is the pinnacle product of this environment.
So yes we know all this, and yet daily revelations about the extent of the pretense can still shake people like me to the core. The no-mirror mirror selfie was just the latest addition.
And now that I have brought you all on this ride with me, let me leave you with this additional revelation,
(read the caption in the OG post)
The no-wet hair, towel photo.