Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram and I love the beach. I can even handle the cheesy sunset photos because you know what, they’re pretty and scenic and I like to pretend that I’m right there on that beach with you. I can EVEN scroll by a picture of you and your friends hanging out, showing off your fun bathing suits and nice tans, because to be honest, I’m guilty of that too. But what I cannot understand is the lying down leg shot, the photo of bare legs from the photographer’s perspective. I’m sure you’ve all seen it but just incase, take a look:
Why is this one of my biggest social media pet peeve you ask? Frankly, it’s because I just don’t get it. Why would I want to look at a picture your knee stubs? And furthermore, the legs displayed in the picture are usually greased up and oily from suntan lotion, it’s just not attractive and eerks me to no end. Blogger Will Oremus, explains this vexation perfectly his article, “Will This Tumblr Put an End to the Worst of all Beach Selfies?” He stated,
“It’s bad enough when your Facebook and Instagram friends subject you to pictures of their smiling mugs on some idyllic beach while you’re stuck at home browsing your Facebook and Instagram feeds. Far worse, however, is when they choose to rub in their presence at said beach by including in the picture a different set of body parts: their shiny, oily, slowly-roasting-yet-still-strangely-pallid lower appendages.”
Most of these are pictures of just legs seemingly unattached to anybody, but some go as far as to include the lower stomach and bikini bottom (as shown above). Why? This is not a photo-shoot for Sports Illustrated or Victoria’s Secret and I just don’t know you well enough to be looking at you from that certain body angle. But the bigger reason I can’t stand this picture is because it’s overly cliché. In one day during this summer alone, I could scroll through my newsfeed and see at least five of these same-angled photos posted, and I only follow about 200 people. While there may be some variations to the picture, like the setting of a pool rather than the beach, the main fact remains that I’m awkwardly looking at your bottom half. This new trend has become so famous, that an amazing spoof Tumblr blog was created called Hot-Dog Legs.
It’s genius. A brilliant French-Canadian food blogger, Alexis Brault, who must also find these pictures as annoying as I do, created an entire tumblr dedicated to pictures that beg the question, are these legs or are they hot dogs? You can’t help but LOL at these pictures because it’s remarkably true. Your knobby knees could very well be two Sabrett’s Frankfurters hanging out by the pool, waiting to be eaten! Within the Tumblr, most of the photos posted are actually people’s legs, but occasionally you can spot a hotdog or even a mixture of both:
So if other people have this same pet peeve, large enough to create and spread a Tumblr about it, then how come it continues to be such a popular obligatory beach picture? I believe that this is due to the cliché aspect of the photo, or in other words the “fad” or the “trend” behind the photo. Blogger Hepzibah Anderson explains in her article, “In Praise of the Cliché,” how cliché’s have been around since the beginning of time, whether it is in writing, photos, or other types of media, because they create a shared personal understanding. She states that without cliché’s,
“You’ve lost a bit of history because, far from being vacuous, the most enduring clichés tether you to generations of human experience.”
She then goes onto explain how cliché’s bring a sense of fellowship and solidarity among people because these people can express their feelings in a shared way. He states,
“Camaraderie resonates in the well-chosen cliché, with its implicit acknowledgement that there is, after all, nothing new under the sun. That doesn’t excuse us from the never-ending task of finding new ways of capturing our experience in [photos], but at the end of the day, sometimes only a cliché will do.”
I believe the ability to quickly reproduce a cliché or trending photo is a person’s way of fitting in and being accepted into the Instagram community, similar to saying “Hey, I took this picture too, I’m just like you.” This need to fit in and find community is a popular theme in Marc Wesch’s video, “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube”. He explains how social media platforms give people a sense of community through shared likes and interests. Your private and public spaces have now been merged and you can share these similar interests and experiences with others. Popular and cliché photos become trends where everyone feels the need to become part of, similar to other trends such as planking and twerking. When people are able to participate in a trend, they can join in on the fun and become part of each specific community. For example, Wesch talks about how people replicate the famous YouTube Numa Numa dance, along with thousands of other videos, so that they too can be apart of the popular crowd, make new connections through space and time, and build communities that weren’t possible before the technology.
Using a beach selfie as an example of community may seem like a stretch, but through the usage of tags and followers, connection through any type of photo is possible. So even though I really CANNOT bring myself to “like” any of the Hot-Dog Legs photos, I guess I can’t blame people for wanting to fit into a community through Instagram. But next time you take a picture of yourself on the beach, be a little more unique, original, and try not to make your legs look as though they’re ready for the BBQ grill.
For Fun, take a look at some celebrity Hot-Dog Legs! Are they a savory summertime lunch or just some greasy legs??