Letters of Life

A Case for Not Bitstripping Yourself

Now you can star in your very own comic universe. A flattened, undynamic, featureless, template-driven you.

Now you can star in your very own comic universe. A flattened, undynamic, featureless, template-driven you.

How charming, the idea of turning yourself into a comic version of yourself. How effortless to plonk yourself into a two-dimensional world of flat colour where you can live out your fantasies.

“Instant comics and cards starring YOU and your friends (capitals mine).”  That’s what greets you when you open the Bitstrip app. In this case, the word that trumps ‘instant’ is the word ‘you.’ In fact, the one thing this app does well is pander to your need to be the star of your own TV show. But since that’s way too expensive and Youtube isn’t for everyone who doesn’t emanate Ryan-Higa-like energy, a comic is the next best thing.

Bitstrip lets you be the central figure in your own private universe, which if we let it, becomes the very bastion of petty narcissism. No wait, that’s Instagram. Bitstrips is the nadir of self-absorption sunk to unknown depths with every frame into which you lock yourself.

Here’s why not to bitstrip. Because:

1. The 2D version of you flattens all your 3D features, and that includes your nose.

2. There are enough apps out there that already pander to a latent need for self-aggrandizement, even if it means uglifying yourself through a do-it-yourself generic comic template.

3.  The self-validation this self-gratifying comic app gives is the kind that seems eternal (your avatar is forever unless you remove it) but is, in actual fact, fleeting and temporary. You might find yourself periodically tweaking your avatar, hence the option to ‘update your look.’ How ironic, as the choices in the template are in dead colours and stereotypical flesh tones along racial lines. I’m Asian, but why would I choose the yellowish skin tone option? I’ve always wondered what it’s like to have Caucasian coloring. Here goes! Click.

How ironic that my real-life physique is way more flattering, and my eyes, even when listless, have a sparkle that the Bitstrips graphics department were too lazy to animate with code.

4.  Bitstrips lets your imagination take a rest by creating tens of “status comics”, greeting cards, and comic strips for you. All you have to do is insert yourself and a friend. Friend is avatar-less? No problem. With time saved from thinking creatively, you ‘create’ an avatar for your friend through a series of multiple-choice features, body parts, and the ugliest clothes ever illustrated.

5. The irony? Your meticulously-crafted bitstrip doesn’t even look like you.


Comments? Love to hear them.

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Categorised in: Life Online, Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought (Reflections)

142 Responses »

  1. I remember when the internet (and I) was still young, it was a text only (UNIX) medium and I became really addicted to MOOs as it was a way to socialize with others (mostly college students and researchers in IT) without all the stigma of real life, i.e. you are judged based on your communication, thoughts typed out, etc., alone, not what you are in real life. It was very liberating, a truly level socializing field, and I met some brilliant minds, most of whom I never met in real life (and glad that I didn’t). Today, I’m wary of social media, even though I’m glad that we’re all more connected at the grassroots. It should be an impetus for action, unfortunately, it panders to the worst of our collective instincts!

    • It’s a good thing to be wary of social media rather than to treat it as a public diary, which seems to be quite the thing with young Singaporeans. Being a digital native doesn’t preclude a certain amount of cluelessness or naivete about the medium, which years down the line, can become a lot less friendly.

      Thanks for commenting, L!

    • EXACTLY! That’s why I like social media, it’s freeing. At the same time, I don’t give the internet anything. I think people are NUTS to give facebook their real name. I think people are nuts to answer personal questions to social media that they’d never give to a stranger on the street–and yet, it’s the same thing!

  2. There are a lot of non-artistic types who find this really fun. I’m in the camp of “it gets old, quickly.”

  3. I found the app quite entertaining myself! So many ways to create a “look,” so many ways to present yourself every morning, afternoon, and evening. But there seemed a certain staleness to the comics, like you said, a certain triteness, and in the end, all I see is a yearning on the part of the person posting the strips for attention, ‘likes’ and validation.

    • I totally agree with you! It’s one thing to say “this is so entertaining” and keep it to yourself, but it’s another thing to post it so the world can see. I’m not sure I care about so-and-so playing outside with their dog. Great for so-and-so. I agree that it’s a cry for attention. Great post!

  4. I have two cents to chip in here and this is coming from someone who has yet to bitstrip. I have even defied watching Miley Cyrus twerk! Now that my credentials have been established, here is what I have to say. Let’s face it, most people are already the star of their own show. This app just gives them another outlet to communicate that to the world. Fuck those people. On the other hand, there are also lots of folks that just use it for a bit of fun, which I have no problem with.

    • Right. I haven’t seen it, either, not even listened to the full song. It gives me the uncomfortables. Fuck Miley Cyrus. (Oh, wait, a minute, that’s probably her campaign speech….)

      Hilarious comment, leblackstar, rock on.

    • I definitely agree with all that you said. The current culture promotes narcissism and self-involvement, Bitstrips are no surprise. From old selfies to the E-cards that were extremely popular last year, the more the world can be made about the self, the better.

      To be honest, Bitstrips don’t bother me, some are funny, but where is it all headed? What’s the next bastion of narcissism?

  5. leblackstar, that makes two of us who haven’t seen the famous twerk. 😀 I get your point, that Bitstrips has good entertainment value. . . me thinks it’ll have it’s day in the sun and that’s that.

  6. So many people are already “flattened, undynamic, featureless, [and] template-driven” in real life, so who needs a bitstrip?

    Honestly, it’s the one of the top three reasons I don’t engage in texting, Facebook, or Twitter. The other two are privacy and the idiotic disassembly of the English language as we know it.

    When I Laugh Out Loud, baby, you’ll HEAR it.

  7. Even Jesus knew how much people thought about themselves when he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” two thousand years ago. It’s good to see how much we’ve progressed… or not.

  8. I agree with you very much! I find this bitstrip thing annoying and it is absolutely ridiculous how litle they look like the poeple they are supposed to “be”. Wish people would stop filling my wall with theese things!

    Good post.

  9. Congratulations of being Freshly Pressed! My Bitstrip avatar, strangely, bears a striking resemblance to me – although in real life I am somewhat less attached to my little black handbag/purse.
    I too, have concerns about our interaction with things which aren’t real, as voiced here: http://wrightonthebutton.com/2013/11/02/i-have-bitstripped/
    Bitstrips are good as instant birthday cards – if you have the patience to wade through all the images you have already seen and rejected, that is.

    • Thank you, Allison! Nice post on Bitstrip, and I like your blog name as that perfect pair of denims is as elusive to me as that perfect white dress. 😀 And yes, I do agree that a customized greeting card using Bitstrip outstrips e-cards any day, since they take time to craft.

  10. while some of the ones I’ve seen on facebook are quite funny it is getting a little irritating

  11. well done. it pains me to see bitstrip users lacking any creativity to modify captions and speech bubbles.

  12. I so loved this post and will be sharing it on FaceBook. I know many people who use BitStrip that will get a kick out of this. But, I should confess, I was in a comic stip (several) before there was BitStrip and they were not a vanity thing as you can see in this one for example: http://i10.photobucket.com/albums/a139/thisischer/comic2.jpg :p … I know a lot of people who do exactly what you lay out in your piece, but I also know people who use them for social statements and activism [regardless of their politics].Really good job here and congrats and being FreshlyPressed 🙂

    • Thank you Cheri for publicizing my post! Enjoyed looking at the comic in your link. It *is* in a different league from Bitstrips! There’s such a lot of talent out there. And yes, I agree that if used in a clever way, any social app can be used effectively for social change and awareness. It’s just that most folks use them for entertaining themselves only. : )

  13. I am so very annoyed with the bitstrips on my Facebook. It seems to be the new in thing right now and it can’t get old fast enough for me. Great post 🙂

    • Thank you, mamabro! I hope you’ll visit featherglass often, though to be honest, this is the first rant in the entire blog. I don’t usually do rants, as I think they can be myopic and petty, (as this one is!), but this one appears to have a lot of traction with all of you, and I am glad of that.

  14. I like my photo. I discovered bit strips ages ago. Now it appears everyone is using it and that’s when I stop linking things. Thanks for sharing.

    • And thank you for reading and commenting. : ) It’s interesting that the people behind FB created a Bitstrips blocker; it’s as if they knew users might find it as irritating as all the other social app predecessors!

      • Well said. I am with you 100% on this. Friends use a similar app from their phones to their FB here in Japan and it does not appeal to me at all. I skim over those feeds now, having found the first few I did read boring, cringe-worthy (for the poster) and unhitched. I am hoping this new fad will be short-lived, otherwise it may be enough to end my days on FB!

      • Thank you, Elle. It is deceptively simple to write captions and create comics that captivate, and the unfortunately, for the most part, many of us are unable to express ideas or concepts that are unique or interesting, unless these have been percolating inside for a long time. I feel pretty certain Bitstrips will be yesterday’s news soon, but then again, they might be clever enough to keep reinventing themselves, so . . . : )

  15. Very interesting and enjoyable article. I don’t know if it was intentional to misspell “narcissistic”in the accompanying image, in my case, it did accentuate the message 🙂

  16. Reblogged this on Wanderlust: Tales From a Bucket List and commented:
    Okay, finally somebody says exactly what I’ve been thinking about Bitstrips.

  17. Ok, I confess, I had no idea what those annoying little comics were that were showing up in my Facebook feed. Thanks for the enlightenment. Although I must confess, as a fat girl, I might want to re-image my body. On second thought, no, I’m fine the way I am.
    BB

  18. You sound bitter and narcissistic yourself. It’s an app created for fun, not to stroke people’s egos. Calm down.

    • I’m with you on this one hvlos! People need to calm down and lighten up a little! Bitstrips is just a bit of fun! No different to posting your BEST PICS on Facebook – narcissism anyone?
      If it annoys you then block it. I am not a fan of Bitstrips but I can find better things to worry about.

      • Right?? I mean with this logic anything you do can be seen as narcissistic. Hell even taking a shower is somehow narcissistic now. People just want to feel like they’re above something by complaining about what other people like. Just block the app don’t write an entire self righteous post about it on WP D;

  19. That’s very revealing, never thought of it that way.

  20. Bitstrips seems like harmless fun on the surface of it. Your perspective that it actually dulls down your real life even as you seek to illuminate yourself in another light is intriguing. I think people want to create an image of themselves that can be easily manipulated. But I agree it’s ultimately pretty sophomoric and lame. I find myself hoping it goes away. Where do I sign the petition?

    • Interesting point, kevinjcarter, about wanting to manipulate reality, which the virtual world is, just in another form. Just because it’s not physical doesn’t mean it’s less real.

      • Actually my friends argue that their online avatars of strange shapes and designs are more real representations of themselves than their faces can be. (This was in response to a blog I wrote titled Image is Everything.) But I am still on the fence on that one.

      • I can see why abstractions are appeal to some people. In part, that’s what they see in the mind’s eye, and their self-perception is more real than how others view them (which can require a great deal of self-awareness.) This is why virtual reality cannot be discounted as unreality. 😀

  21. This was completely hilarious and so true!

  22. I found bitstrips years before it became popular 🙂 So it’s an old friend. I really like it. But your right about it being useless and probably could have used more creativity.

  23. I’ve started to see a few of my friends use this app. I find it funny now, but I’m sure I won’t in a month or two.

  24. I’m with Kippfu, it annoys me that people lack the creativity to even change the caption, let alone move anything around in the picture or change facial expressions, etc. It’s really not that difficult, I don’t know why more people don’t do it.
    I actually enjoy using Bitstrips, as you could probably tell if you’ve ever seen my blog. It’s not a vanity thing for me, it’s simply another way to express myself. I use custom ‘strips in all of my blog posts as the featured image. However, I don’t just use the stock standard ones.
    As a Graphic Designer, I enjoy being creative and see much more potential in those little ‘strips. I find the one closest to what I’m trying to portray in a post, and then I rework it. I recreate the image in InDesign, keeping it the same general style and just changing what I need to change to make it more personal to me.
    Take my current avatar for example. I created my favourite hat in the same style for my little avatar me, to make it more personal.
    I think they are actually rather cute but I can see why some don’t.
    There are a few people I’m friends with on Facebook who post a minimum of 10 of these things on a daily basis, sometimes posting as many as 30! It’s quite annoying to have to scroll through all of those to get to anything even remotely interesting posts. They also never change anything about them, not even the caption.
    I enjoy making them but I hardly ever post them to Facebook. But again, I can definitely see why people find them annoying.

  25. YES. Thank you for this. I usually don’t yuck other peoples’ yums, but bitstrips is just on that superior level of annoying.

  26. I don’t find bitstrips narcissistic–just funny. I guess it depends on the friends you have & how they are using it.
    As a “bitstripper”, I will admit some of the comics are boring or useless, but that’s where the users creativity comes in to make the scene more lively or even humorous.

  27. I understand your point, but I think that most of social media is narcissistic in nature. We tweet, post, Instagram, etc. things that are of interest to us (I guess some post things they believe will be of interest to others). Even those of us who blog write about what’s on OUR minds – blogging is possibly at the height of narcissism (I say this as one who blogs). Let me tell you about my thoughts…

    • Appreciate your comment. Sharing things or ideas that are of interest to us with others is what makes us human (that, and the ability to accessorize. 😀 ) We’re social beings, which explains the explosion of growth in social media. Narcissism, however, is quite a different fish. Remember the Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool. It connotes the “pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, that derive from arrogant pride.” [Wikipedia] A part of why I wrote this post was because the inanity of the Bitstrips on *my* own newsfeeds were getting quite annoying, and I wondered if my FB contacts who posted them were aware that Bitstripping themselves, in addition to posting up frequent portraits of themselves, were really sending messages, however unintentioned, of a deep and constant need for external validation. Obviously this is just my own pet hypothesis and reflects my own love-hate relationship with social media, but there it is. 🙂

  28. I definitely find it a challenge to make the bitstrip look like me. Funny though as I see bitstrips as a new and I guess a more engaging way to post statuses rather than a narcissistic thing. Interesting thoughts though!

    • Thanks for commenting, lisageurts. It’s true that posting Bitstrips is more creative than straightforward statuses (although I have friends who have a knack of posting the smartest, funniest, statuses using words alone!) but when the *same* Bitstrip scene is repeated on one’s newsfeeds, starring different friend-avatars, I suppose it can get tiresome after a while. (Happened to a friend.) To each his own, of course, and really, this post was more of a personal rant than an Op-ed style post. I truly didn’t expect it to get this much exposure. 😀

      • Yeah, I know what you mean; Bitstrips are mainly lacking because you can only choose a few scenes a day so it just gets really annoying. And the most fun was the make the Bitstrip look anything like me and it’s pretty cool if friends manage to make their cartoon look like them, which unfortunately rarely happens. And I like rant posts, which was why I liked this post, good you got so much response!

  29. Thank you, thank you and thank you for finally putting into words what I have been so angry about for the last several weeks! Was thinking of checking myself into a “Bitstripping Anger Management” group. Spoiler alert: There are no such groups.

  30. so good, so true! I think I may have to stop… I don’t think many of the posts on bitstrip take much thought or are thought evoking!

  31. Reblogged this on Red Unscripted and commented:
    Do you bitstrip? I have…

  32. Reblogged this on Lesa Varie and commented:
    Super funny…

  33. My irritation at these things has been rationally validated. Thank you!!

  34. I’ve been noticing these personalised comics in friends’ facebook statuses. Thanks for helping me put a name to the phenomenon. Bitstrips. Now I also know. 😉

  35. I have to admit, I am getting a bit (no pun intended) tired of seeing these comics everywhere.

  36. My entire Facebook feed has been filled with them for days. They’re the same comics over and over, but with only slightly different characters that look little like the person that created them.

  37. Great post! I am getting really sick of all those social apps used by people that always talk about themselves in the third-person. What’s up with that?! Weird! Facebook is enough without adding this crap to it! Although I do have an Instagram account, I don’t have any “selfies” on it and I can’t stand other accounts filled with those.

  38. Reblogged this on A TAKE WITH JAKE and commented:
    Just a great view on bitstrips if you’ve heard of it yet…

  39. From personal experience, the only people on my timeline who have gone to the trouble of making Bitstrip comics of themselves are the same people who take photos of their meals (every meal no less) and don’t let 5 minutes go by without a status update of some sort to tell everyone what they’re doing or how they’re feeling. Heck, I’m amazed these people don’t share their bowel habits with the rest of us as that seems like the next logical step…

    I’m sure Bitstrips can be fun (for about 5 minutes) but since every other person started posting them, I’ve had no option but to block the app. :-/

  40. This can’t be worse than the “selfie”…

  41. lets see or lets cover our portals or each can happily go on staring at the fire in the rececces of your assumed private cave… im for any effort that boosts communication because i like living ))) anyone with me?

  42. What a better place for narcissism than Facebook, when I see these pop up on my newsfeed, I can’t help but wonder it it’s somehow a double negative.

  43. I was thinking about bitstripping… now not so much.

  44. Thank you! I’ve been trying to figure out what’s up with the strange new (awful) fad. I was beginning to think I was the only sane person out there.

  45. Does this person even realize what ironic means? I mean, I think Alanis Morissette had a better grasp of the definition. And your urge to be all poetic is really kind of sad. It’s a fun app for people to be silly with. It isn’t some hyperbole for our fleeting existence.

  46. I really enjoyed reading this! I am a user of BitStrips (and can’t help but think to myself, “does that make me a Bitstripper” hehehe) and I just think it’s fun and cute. As for your thoughts about narcissism (sp?) I agree that it is too commonly accepted to be self centered, and to embrace an attitude of entitlement. I think that folks tend to possess a natural uniqueness all their own, and I enjoy that diversity in people. Unfortunately, when so many people feel that they need to be “stars”, it takes away from their natural individuality as they try to make themselves increacingly “cool” and “acceptable”. It’s unfortunate and unhealthy and much too encouraged to seek attention from the masses, because too often folks try to become someone other than who they are physically, mentally, or in terms of fashion, or whatever the case is.

    Selfish, entitled, self centeredness is not so great. Bitstrips? I personally find that it’s just a bit of meaningless fun. 🙂

  47. I think social media is great, but the next generation is taking it to the next level. Social media was created to connect people and create discussion, not to post “what I had for lunch today.” Sorry Mr. “what I had for lunch today,” I prefer to use my social media presence as a source for conversation and discussion (and to share funny vine videos lol).

  48. MOL!!!! I agree furless One. The real life version of me is way better than any cartoon. Garfield, eat your heart out! Shrimp

  49. LOOOL i love this post! even though i love bitstrip!! lol. mine actually looks like me…well even before i found out about bitstrips, people say i look like a cartoon…so idk haha. Anyway great post!!!

    k im gona go make another bitstrip.

    jk…lol. maybe later though ;P

  50. LOL I agree, bitstrips can be annoying. However I’ve seen some clever ones. If social media is used correctly, its ok probably. Everything in moderation!

  51. Can anyone explain what Bitstrips is/does? I haven’t really experienced this phenomenon at all, and so I’m having a hard time understanding it. Then again, I might have a mental block, since I still don’t really understand twitter.

  52. Yeah it sounds like a waste of time. Just like a lot of new apps.

  53. I must admit that I had to try it, but I realised it was a waste of time!

  54. My main reason for not Bitstripping – didn’t even know what it was until this post! I’d seen it a little bit on facebook but didn’t realise it was a new fad. Second reason for not Bitstripping, really can’t be arsed….

  55. BITSTRIPS ARE GREAT

  56. nice perspective on this issue…. well said feather-glass….

  57. I find it highly entertaining… most of the time I keep them “private” between me and my guy, other times I publish them. To each their own I guess. I’m with beccaschilling, although I am not all that creative. I have fun changing things around and using them on my blog as needed/appropriate.

    Part of me thinks people need to take a chill pill and relax. It’s entertainment.

  58. I still don’t understand why people would bitstrip themselves. It sounds more like a medical instrument than a comic anyway….

  59. I personally love Bitstrips. Some of them are really funny! Isn’t that what comics are about? Comedy.

  60. I’ve seen a few of these on my facebook feed in passing… I didn’t realize you could customize the avatars because I thought they all looked pretty much the same… yeah.

  61. I like viewing the various bitstripped friends popping up on social media but haven’t really found the desire to jump into myself….okay well maybe I looked around but I haven’t gone live with it.

  62. It’s all over my Facebook feed. I was curious to see how close of a likeness I could get the BitStrip to look like myself, but there is definitely something odd about the phenom. Especially the talking in third person element. It’s harmless silliness in the end.

  63. Sometimes they can be hilarious, but I can’t say that I’m a fan when people make me an avatar and add me to their bit strip. If I didn’t put it on my fb, please don’t put me in the stupid things on yours. lol

  64. selfies, bitstrips, look at me,me,me….it gets tiring. theres no substance to it, yes maybe its fun for the creator and maybe fun to look at once, but then when everyone is doing it…uuuggghh . How many Suzy walked her dog and lucy cleaned her house with cutesy pictures do we need to see. If one actually drew it that would deserve a look and the persons creativity could be acknowledged. I just prefer to not go with trends and tend not to like most of them. To each his own I guess.

  65. I think Bitstrips is an outlet for wha people really want to say.

  66. Or you could lighten up and realize that this is supposed to be fun and enjoy it. Narcissism? Hardly, unless you’re narcissistic already.

  67. The skin colour feature, I personally didn’t find anything wrong with it. Different racial features do come with certain categories of skin tones and this is just an animation so won’t be expecting it to mimic my exact skin hue in the first place.

  68. Interesting post! I enjoyed Bitstrip and it was really fun to create them with other “characters”, esp those pranks! 😛

  69. This article is so good, I like this blog, Thank you very much for sharing

  70. Reblogged this on And What? and commented:
    Hate Bitstrips with a passion. Half the people I know with it, they’ve made themselves thinner, taller, shorter etc. It’s just another way of showing people that they can change themselves on screen and giving them no motivation to do it in person. A pathetic cry for attention, something else our society does not need.
    Also I just don’t like it.

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