The digital realm has borne a new language, “platform vernacular” (Meese et al. 2015, pg.1819) wherein images are, in themselves, messages. McLuhan’s concept ‘the medium is the message’ (Strate 2017, pg.441) undoubtedly applies to social media and the “changing cultural position of the photograph” (Meese et al. 2015, pg.1828). The selfie has become a language of its own, not classified as a raw photograph, but as a constructed, purposeful image which requires an individual to be fluent in “platform vernacular” (Meese et al. 2015, pg. 1819). Meese’s (2015) case study on funeral selfies exemplifies the notion of the medium of a ‘selfie’ as a cultural commodity, in that the meaning of a digital photo is as “a form of communication rather than representation” (Meese et al. 2015, pg. 1824). Much like the selfie, the influx of ‘gym’ or ‘fitness’ inspiration demonstrates how the medium can “mutat[e] our collective behaviour, the way we organize ourselves” (Strate 2017,pg. 252). This concept is manifest in the digital vernacular associated with ‘fitness’ images, particularly the ‘revenge body’ hashtag, which was initiated by Khloe Kardashian (Campbell 2017, par. 4). The ‘revenge body’ image involves an individual posting a picture of their body, with the purpose of “mak(ing) their ex significant other regret the day they broke up with them” (Campbell 2016, par. 4). In this way the image is transformed into a culturally loaded concept, a ‘word’ in the digitally literate individual’s vernacular. Culkin’s (1968) concept explains the ‘revenge body’ image as the medium having “major influence over the content that is communicated, and more importantly over us as individuals alone, and as a society and culture” (Strate 2017, pg. 252). Further, the ‘revenge body’ image is “structured by a number of stylistic conventions” (Meese et al. 2015, pg.1820), it requires “platform vernacular” (Meese et al. 2015) such as use of hashtags, photo-editing and most importantly curating an image which hypersexualises the body. Much like the funeral selfie, revenge body images are “clearly taken with a particular audience in mind” (Meese et al. 2015, pg.1825), this being an ex-partner, within whom, the ‘poster’ of the image, wishes to incite feelings of jealousy. This exemplifies the photograph as a form of cultural currency, the image existing solely as an “ephemeral and creative form of ‘live communication’”(Meese et al. 2015, pg. 1825).
Figure 1.0. Khloe Kardashian’s ‘revenge body’ post on Instagram.
Khloe Kardashian, Sometimes its hard for me…, Instagram, January 8 2018, http://www.instagram.com/p/Bdp1IU3FmcZ/?hl=en&taken-by=khloekardashian
- Campbell, E (2017): “Why a ‘Revenge Body’ is bad motivation,” Huffpost, <https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-a-revenge-body-is-bad-motivation_us_587f7a0ce4b06a0baf6491ee>
- Meese, J., Gibbs, M., Carter, M., Arnold, M., Nansen, B., & Khon, T. 2015, ‘Selfies at Funerals: Mourning and Presencing on Social Media Platforms’, International Journal of Communication, vol. 9, pp. 1818–1831
- Strate, L (2017): “Understanding the Message of Understanding Media”, Atlantic Journal of Communication, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 244-254
- Khloe Kardashian, Sometimes its hard for me…, Instagram, January 8 2018, http://www.instagram.com/p/Bdp1IU3FmcZ/?hl=en&taken-by=khloekardashian