The internet creates a strange liminal space where we must invoke our bodies in order to represent ourselves. In the absence of facial expression, body language, or verbal description, one can express emotion and identity with other methods, like pictures, gifs, and emojis.
This video talks about how people on the internet often represent themselves through pictures, gifs, and videos. They caption or tag it with the phrase “Me RN” meaning “Me right now”. Even though these gifs or pictures are taken from shows, movies, or places that don’t relate to the user, through their abstraction and decontextualization people can appropriate these images to create themselves in webspace. These images capture a feeling or mood that can be difficult to evoke on the internet because it would require long descriptions, finesse of diction, and/or visual depiction that’s not possible or desirable to pull off.
In a similar vein, emojis are abstracted images used to represent emotions and ideas in internet liminal space. However, emojis differ from things like reaction images in that they are designed by the owners of the webspace themselves. Whereas reaction images derive from a third-party source and can be easily manipulated to suit the user’s needs, emojis are dependent on its creators. We could assume that while reaction images derive from a bottom-up appropriation of culture, emojis represent a top-down system that is limited by the ideology and resources of website owners and creators.
However, I’d like to think it’s more complicated than that. We cannot characterize website owners and creators as from the “top” and users at the “bottom”, when many creators derive from lower or middle class backgrounds and found their work through their own funding or crowdfunding. Users can be creators and creators are also users. Thus, while some of the same privilege systems are recreated on the web, we cannot assume that this is always true.
That’s why I believe that the internet represents an amazing new space for people to represent themselves and perhaps create new identities away from everyday restrictions.