Exploring Identity-Based Humor in a #Selfies #Humor Image Set From Instagram

Exploring Identity-Based Humor in a #Selfies #Humor Image Set From Instagram

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2679-7.ch001
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On a social level, identity humor may be pro-social, anti-social, or more often, both. The research in this chapter examined three basic research questions based on the study of social imagery: (1) What does identity-based humor look like in terms of a #selfie #humor- tagged image set from the Instagram photo-sharing mobile app? (2) What earlier findings and theories about humor apply to the more modern forms of mediated social humor? Is it possible to effectively apply the Humor Styles Model to the images from the #selfie #humor Instagram image set to better understand #selfie #humor? If so, what may be discoverable using this approach? and (3) What are some constructive and systematized ways to analyze social image sets in a naïve and emergent way using manual and computer-supported techniques?
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This current time is labeled “the age of selfies.” The “selfie” phenomenon in social media interactions basically involves on-the-fly digital self-portraiture as individuals (solo selfies), duos (duo selfies), or groups (group selfies, groupies, we-fies), and in still images as well as videos. The individual, at its most basic form, conveys information about himself or herself, his or her personality, a context, a moment-in-time, and sometimes a message, in the image. Others on the same social media platforms will comment on such shared images, and they may share their own.

Selfies are often considered harmless social phenomena of people sharing aspects of themselves and their lived experiences with others. In the benign view, the main risks of selfies are tastelessness in the overshare and TMI (too much information). Social media platforms serve as amplifiers of messages, so selfies have taken on a syndromic quality, with various ways the self manifests. As a form of user-generated contents, selfies have been studied in various disciplines: sociology, anthropology, human-computer interactions, communications studies, media studies, psychology, emergency management, law enforcement, gender studies, public health, data science, image processing, and education.

Researchers have found aspects for concern, such as teen sexting that may harm the adult selves given the persistence of online information and imagery (Solecki & Fay-Hillier, 2015, p. 934). Another researcher highlights how the sexualization of youth culture has been a long-term challenge and is exacerbated by sexting on social media, which may start chains of events that they cannot control (Gabriel, 2014, p. 105).

There are also risks of data leakage, or the unintended release of private information that may be mis-used. Caught up in the selfie moment, some people have compromised their own financial well-being through unintentional data leakage, such as through #myfirstpaycheck imagery (Lee, 2015). Another type of selfie, what one researcher calls “self-pornification,” involves DIY porn, with sites that cater to sharing these types of contents (Tziallas, 2015). Then, there are the potential physical harms of selfies: People’s focus on capturing the perfect recorded images and videos of themselves to share have led to injuries and deaths. This “death by selfie” is attributed to people’s distraction, with “photo-takers falling off cliffs, crashing cars, being hit by trains and shooting themselves while posing with guns,” to the extent that policymakers have had to step in to restrict the taking of selfies in both Mumbai and Pamplona (Salie, Mar. 6, 2016). The self-imperilment of the selfie taker is sometimes part of the design to express something autobiographical; this risk may be from circumstance or design (Saltz, 2014, p. 7).

Based on the research of a #selfie #humor image set from Instagram, the uses of humor in selfies are yet another area of risk. #humor, both in the real and in cyberspace, comes in a variety of forms. There are different formulations for what people find funny. One formula reads: tragedy + time = comedy. The intertwining of tragedy (Melpomene) and comedy (Thalia) is reflected in the comedy and tragedy masks represented in theatre. Collectively, theatre is a space that societies and collectives go to to have discussions about collective social and historical issues. The most common structural component of most humor is incongruity—elements that do not seem to fit in a context based on expectations (Rappoport, 2005, p. 27). People have a hard-wired mental faculty for observing the ludicrous and the incongruous and responding with surprise and laughter. There have been areas of the brain identified to respond to jokes, such as word-play and punning (Kelland, 2011). (While some people will laugh and say, “That’s just so wrong!” when they encounter a rude joke or surprising context, people will not respond with laughter at something that is absurd and actually perceived as ethically wrong. In that case, people become angry.)

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