An alleged photo of Malia Obama was published on Instagram, according to multiple news sources. Who published the image, and when and where they did it remains unclear. The young woman in the photograph wears a t-shirt repping Pro Era, a Brooklyn-based rap collective featuring Joey Bada$$, Kirk Knight, CJ Fly and many others, and looks strikingly like the First Daughter. Besides being fantastic promotion for Pro Era, the photo may be the first leaked Instagram image from the Obama family, whose social media presence is otherwise meticulously maintained and sterilized by social strategy professionals.
In a 2013 interview with Barbara Walters on 20/20, First Lady Michelle Obama commented on why Malia had limited access to Facebook, and her younger daughter Sasha wasn't allowed access at all:
"I still am not a big believer in Facebook for young people ... particularly for them, because they're in the public eye," the first lady said. "Some of it's stuff they don't need to see and be a part of ... So we try to protect them from too much of the public voice."
I never considered how the two Obama children, having zero public social media presence, are so unlike normal children their age. It's tempting to overthink every element of the photograph: Who took this photo? Why'd they take it? Is the filter Mayfair or Earlybird? And then I realize these are the questions I'd ask about a normal Instagram photo. But this isn't a normal photo.
The Obama family's absence from the normal people internet makes this otherwise typical teenage photo feel both precious and disorienting. As a civilian, I like to see any photograph that humanizes the family running the country. But I also feel guilty, like this is an invasion of a teenager's privacy, even though I know Malia Obama is technically a public figure, and there's nothing particularly provocative about this image.
I've never considered how the Obama children have no social media presence
But consider this: just because the Obama family doesn't exist publicly on social media doesn't mean they aren't still living an otherwise typical digital life. They're almost certainly still taking family photos and private selfies that live quietly on disconnected hard drives, waiting to be exhumed by themselves, or strangely, some historian that hasn't been born yet.
In 100 years, someone will publish a book of historic, private photos from within the White House of 2015, and they'll be tiny, low-resolution squares that looked like they were shot in 1970, because Malia or Barack made the mistake of using X-Pro II.
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