Usually, I use social media to project what I perceive to be a sunnier version of my existence. My existence is of course informed by my lived experience with regard to race, gender, and class. I am a light-skinned Mexican-American female graduate student who grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles. In many ways, I have been privileged and continue to be relatively privileged, if not financially then through the accumulation of cultural capital. This is an undeniable part of my story.
Another part of my story is the pervasive mental illness, substance abuse, and legacy of trauma in my family, reflective of generations of poverty and oppression. My parents’ upbringing was very different than mine. In trying to circumvent the circumstances they were born into, my parents consciously and deliberately modeled the choices they saw their college classmates making. Watching my parents observe what middle class people did (drive old Volvos, go camping, watch foreign movies), I learned how to adapt to to new systems of social values.
Recently, I had been thinking about class and gender performativity on social networking. I knew that I spent more time than I would like to think trying to post reasonably and responsibly: moderately, with infrequent selfies and a sort of overall wry tone. I attributed this as both an adherence to the middle-class value of simulating modesty by not drawing attention to one’s self and one born out of my experience as a woman, not wanting to burden people. I was interested in observing how middle class conventions or habits translate between digital and non-digital contexts and seeing what happened if I distorted my own Internet persona.
I decided to use Snapchat and Instagram to disrupt the narrative of my Instagram. My plan was to take selfies using some of the flashier Snapchat filters, like the flower crown or the dog, and then post these photos on Instagram over the course of a day or a week. I wanted to both subvert class expectations and reclaim these filters, sometimes pejoratively referred to as “hoe filters.” I was interested in seeing what, if any, reaction it generated, but even more to reveal the distortion that already existed in my Internet persona. It’s not like I never posted selfies, but they were edited to give the impression of minimal distortion.