Selfie-centred?

SINGAPORE - What are those pictures, you may ask.

They are selfies.

And that man in them is Tampines GRC Member of Parliament Baey Yam Keng.

His numerous selfies can be found on the Net because for the past eight months, he has been religiously updating his Instagram account - a photo-sharing social media platform - with pictures that offer the public a glimpse into his personal life.

This includes photos of the food he eats and events he attends.

Along with these pictures are captions that explain what he is doing or wearing.

What started out as an experiment eventually generated so much buzz online that a blogger termed him a "selfie crush" - someone you have a crush on because of his or her flattering selfies.

The blogger even singled out 10 of Mr Baey's selfies, calling them the "hottest" of the lot. The MP has posted more than 350 photos.

The 42-year-old hopped onto the Instagram bandwagon last December out of curiosity, as was the case with his accounts on other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

He learnt about the various social media platforms through conversations with young people.

"I'm curious about all these things and adventurous enough to try," he said.

The MP recalled the thoughts that went behind his first selfie posted on Instagram.

"You know, taking a selfie is a trend on Instagram, right? But I was also a little apprehensive. I wasn't sure how the public would react to it. So I thought, maybe not my full face. I'll give it a try first.

"It was okay, no averse reactions. So I got a bit bolder and more comfortable doing so."

It took him two to three shots before he finally posted his selfie up.

"The thing about Instagram is that everything will look nice," he said with a laugh.

"I don't think all photos are flattering, but it's not a bother. It doesn't need to have the best shot. As long as it depicts the moment.

There's always a caption to explain and sometimes there's a particular message I want to convey.

"So I hope people will not just look at the photo, but also read the caption," he said.

His Instagram photos have also helped him relate better to people, especially the young who are users of social media. It shows that MPs are also human, he said.

"The thing I post very often is hawker food. Indirectly, people will go 'I also eat hawker food'.

"Sometimes, the impression of MPs is that they only dine at restaurants. So, I don't know, I think it does bring us closer. I hope so," he said.

But he does not post pictures of his family.

"They are not public figures. I don't want undue attention on them. It's also not to give them pressure," he said.

Reactions to his posts have been "more positive than negative", he said.

His peers have been supportive.

Some, like fellow MP Teo Ser Luck, would sometimes post comments like "cool" or "way to go", he said.

But Mr Baey has also received some flak for his selfies.

Netizen Barrie called him "the most narcissistic MP Singapore has ever had in history".

"Baey Yam Keng talks as if he's some celebrity. Like movie star or singer. He's more interested in others being interested in his selfies than for his work as an MP (sic)," the netizen wrote.

Most important thing

Netizen SingaporeSpirt called him "a man in need of public attention" and "lacking in self confidence".

Of course, there will always be criticism, Mr Baey said.

With a look of resignation, he said: "I'm used to it. It happens on Facebook as well. All along, I've been telling myself that we can't make everyone happy. As long as we are sure of ourselves, we do it with the right motives. That's the most important thing to me."

Social media experts TNP spoke to said that while social media is a good way to connect with people on the ground, it can be a double-edged sword.

Social media consultant Belinda Ang said: "I think as long as the content of these pictures are appropriate, and does more to spread positive messages than negative ones, it should not be an issue."

But she warned of the nature of social media, which gives room for words to be twisted and meanings to be misconstrued, as "one man's meat is another man's poison".

Q & A with Mr Baey:

Q: Do you think you are good-looking?

A: I'm comfortable (with how I look). I'm pleasant-looking. But I must also qualify: because of Instagram, everybody looks nicer, really. So members of the public who see me sometimes say 'Oh, you look better in photos'.

Q: What are some of the nastier comments?

A: People say that I'm full of myself, that I'm a narcissist. But I hope that people will also see the other posts, and realise that (the selfies) are actually just a fraction of what I put online.

Q: Are you surprised at being labelled a "selfie crush"?

A: Yes, it's very flattering that people track my posts and bother to single out my top 10 selfies. But among politicians, there are not many of us, so not too difficult anyway. There aren't many choices.

Q: What does your wife think of your social media presence?

My wife (playwright Lim Hai Yen, 42) is not into social media. She's a very private person. She doesn't even have a Facebook account.

She's okay with (him posting photos) now, although for certain photos, she will tell me 'That one, maybe not too appropriate'.

Q: Are your kids active on social media?

The kids are still young. They have Facebook accounts, but they just use them to play games. I won't stop them because that is the trend of things.


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