Selfies are everywhere these days. They’re irritating, funny, disingenuous and self-flattering. Everyone from your kids to celebrities take them and share them… sometimes with a trusted friend, and sometimes with the world. Sometimes, it happens intentionally. Other times, those “private” photos become products for public consumption, whether you like it or not.
The truth of the matter is, there is no such thing as a safe selfie, despite what certain popular phone apps or your friends list tells you.
Jennette McCurdy, known for her role as Sam Puckett on iCarly and Sam & Cat, is now learning about the fallout of a selfie-gone-viral. McCurdy took photos of herself in lingerie, shared them — privately, it’s assumed — and the now-21-year-old is dealing with the attention, unwanted or otherwise, as these photos are being shared all over the internet. Within 24 hours being leaked, searches for McCurdy beat out all other search terms on Google Trends, ousting even the searches for Oscar winners from the night before.
In less than a day, photos of the former teen icon have circulated far and wide. Maybe it was staged… maybe it wasn’t. But the fact remains there’s really no such thing as a take back where social media is concerned.
Promises You Can’t Keep
An app called “Snapchat,” with a target audience of users as young as 13, offers a platform to share videos and photos for a short time (up to 10 seconds) before they are permanently deleted from the servers. It’s considered by some to be a “safe” way to post selfies… but it’s simply not. It’s always possible to secure a screenshot of anything you can see with your own eyes, using an iPhone or any other device. You can’t count on this software — or any software — to ensure that the pics you snap and share are going to be secure.
The fact that you can be as young as 13 to use it and most other social media out there should give parents pause, and should also give them a good starting point to discuss restraint and judgment with their kids.
When “Private” Isn’t
Even if you post your pics on Facebook and adjust your settings to “private,” what you post there is considered public in a legal sense. When you share your images — even on Facebook — you waive your expectation of privacy.
You could, possibly, sue for damages if you copyrighted the photo, and you might win, but that’s about it. The only real protection you have is the ethical ground upon which the folks you share your photos stand. In other words, if they decide to share a photo you’ve shared with them, you could accuse them of being a lousy friend… but there’s not too much else you can do about it.
Remember, too, that there’s nothing preventing employers from seeing what images of you are circulating out there. The myth of the “safe” selfie is just as likely to cause trouble on the job front as is a photo of you tagged by a “friend” that’s perhaps inconsistent with their corporate image or work climate. You may have had a wonderful time on a cruise last summer, but if it’s searchable, it can be held against you, no matter how benign it might seem to be.
And, again… at that point, the damage is done.
Your best bet is to simply exercise caution and restraint whenever you’re tempted to ham it up for the camera (even if you’ve outgrown the duck lips phase).