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The best way to present yourself on the Internet is with a selfie. Whether you want to reflect your actual identity or craft an idealized image, a well-executed self-portrait can send the world whatever message you please.
And there’s no better home for selfies than Instagram, the photo-sharing social media app that has prompted the biggest explosion in visual self-representation since MySpace. One user has such a solid command of the art form that his handle could only be: @selfie.
@selfie, a 19-year-old named Hunter, swooped in on the perfect name for the platform, in 2013—the very year Oxford Dictionary named “selfie” its Word of the Year. He posts only features front-facing photos of himself.
Since his November 2013 registration, Hunter has posted 137 selfies with various expressions—happy, thoughtful, sexy, sleepy—and hashtagged with “#selfie,” nothing else. The one thing every image conveys is that Hunter is extremely chill. In fact, Hunter is so chill he just happened upon the handle. “I was just sitting in class,” Hunter told the Daily Dot, describing a time when was still in a Chesapeake, Virginia, high school. “I used to always try to make different names for Instagram accounts.”
Inspired by a friend whose Instagram handle was “artichoke,” Hunter registered a number of “random, simple” handles. “It’s funny to be like, ‘Hey, follow me on Instagram.’ ‘Okay, what’s your name?’ ‘Oh, it’s spaghetti,’” he said. Hunter, to say the least, was pretty surprised to have scored the handle @selfie. The perfection of the name even has jealous Instagrammers offering to pay money for it.
“Every time I log in,” said Hunter, “there’s somebody asking me for my name, or offering me money for [the handle].”
When Hunter isn’t pointing the camera at himself, he attends classes at a Chesapeake-area community college and enjoys the area skate park. He skateboarded throughout his teens and is overall just a regular millennial looking to have a good time. His idea of a perfect date is not “too crazy,” he said. “Going to get a bite to eat, going to the movies is always a safe bet.”
Channeling the narcissism implied by filling an entire photo account with portraits of himself, Hunter doesn’t follow anybody from the @selfie account. Despite this, he has a devout following of 8,000 users who fill each photo with comments of praise, respect, adoration, and love.
“There’s one chick who comments on every picture. She says, ‘I love you,’” Hunter explained. “There’s people who will comment on every picture and say, like, ‘God damn, daddy!’ Shit like that.”
Hunter said he doesn’t really take comments too seriously, however. “When it comes down to it, I just log on, take a picture. I try to make them a little more goofy.” For the most part, he will snap a photo of whatever face he’s making at the time—open mouth, awkward smile—Hunter tries not to put much stock in how he’s perceived by others. Hunter admits that he’s never been into taking selfies; the account was started simply to entertain himself and his friends.
This being the Internet, however, the handle @selfie carries a burden. “Having the name in general, I get tons of spam and stuff,” he said. “Tons of people comment on the pictures. They fight on there. A lot of people think I’m handicapped.”
But sometimes, Hunter said, his friends will log on to add some fuel to the fire in the comments.
“My friends all know about it, too. So they’ll go on and provoke stuff… For a while, [commenters] were convinced I had Down syndrome.” He added that his friends “were always doing that type of stuff.”
But when you pull back these layers, Hunter is a down-to-earth teen with very little mystery to him, and @selfie works as a small window onto the a young man who is living his best Internet life—one that puts no weight on what other people think while projecting a positive self-image. And when it comes down to it, Hunter may have things figured out.
At the end of the interview, Hunter left two words of wisdom that many an Internet commenter would do well to heed: “Stay chill.”
Photo via @selfie/Instagram | Remix by Jason Reed
Feliks Garcia was a reporter and essayist whose work for the Daily Dot focused on social justice issues, internet culture, and the Rock. He was a staff writer for the Independent when he passed away in February 2017 after suffering a heart attack. He was 33.