With the rise of MetaSelfies, and the viral Tube Girl, Instagram, and TikTok are officially in their hyperconfident, self-reflective, performative era. Cringe, Chic, or Real? Let’s discuss the rise of self-surveillance posting in the age of corporate surveillance.
In 2021 Refinery 29 coined the term “MetaSelfie”. The MetaSelfie is simple: a selfie within a selfie. The most common form is taking a mirror selfie, with your camera facing towards the mirror or someone capturing a picture of an individual taking a picture of themselves.
Celebrity it-girls Dua Lipa, Adwoa Aboah, and Bella Hadid, are known for taking their Meta Selfie. It’s very me-centric, but equally echoes the finsta-loving, be-real generation, of effortless and authentic posting. Insta burn-out is real, and creators, influencers, and celebrities are tapping into a more relatable aesthetic online.
The deeper meaning behind the seemingly fun MetaSelfie is that it is a reaction to corporate surveillance. Clarion Security Systems estimates that there are over 942,562 CCTV Cameras in London and you are likely to be captured on London CCTV up to 70 times per day.
Many MetaSelfies are taking in security cameras on the underground, at supermarket checkouts, and in public spaces where CCTV cameras are present. It’s almost a recognition that you know you’re being watched, so you might as well watch back.
Journalist Maggie Zhou described how “This trend (MetaSelfie) says, we’re aware we’re being judged, but we don’t care. It says that we know we’re being watched and that our data is being mined, but we don’t care.”
The Metaselfie seemed like the ultimate in-your-face-hyper-aware-posting until “Tube Girl,” Sabrina Bahsoon, entered the TikTok algorithm. Tube Girl takes videos of herself confidently dancing on the London underground in 0.5 mode. Since going viral, Sabrina has gained a huge following with comments on her videos such as “Girl you are goals omg,” “IN TUBE GIRL WE TRUST 💯”, “this!!!.”
Tube Girl’s response to any haters asking if she gets embarrassed is “Personally I think I’m slaying and trussssttt nobody cares.”
Transport for London (TfL) has an estimated 14,000 cameras and tube goers are constantly reminded that they are there. The British Transport Police message “See it. Say it. Sorted” message is also frequently being broadcast. Now, these messages are obviously intended to help with safety concerns. Yet, it doesn’t take away from the realization that not only are you being watched by cameras, you are very much watching over passengers. The rise of Tube Girl is counter to caring about corporate surveillance, social embarrassment, and screams freedom of self through radical self-posting and hyper-confidence.
The relationship between individuals’ digital self and physical self is changing. There is a difference between creating your own content and someone taking content from you. At GLITCH, we are fascinated by technology but also recognize that with these advances come serious conversations about who is controlling the technology and what rights citizen have to their data.
The rise of the MetaSelfie and TubeGirl aesthetics showcases the hyperawareness of surveillance and the hyperawareness of self online. As our digital and physical selves begin to merge, the surveillance chic aesthetic in the age of corporate surveillance is a form of self-expression and boldly acknowledges that we are all being watched.
Written by Amber Weir from GLITCH Magazine