Posted in Lore

Are Tattoos The Original Social Media?


Everyone I know has either a Facebook page, a tattoo, or both.  Tattoos have been around for thousands of years.  I wonder if they were the original social media?

Be careful what you put on the internet.  The internet is forever.
The oldest tattoo known is on ‘Otzi the ice man.’  Otzi is 5,300 years old.  So when they say tattoos are forever, I believe them.  Anthropologists say Otzi’s tattoos were probably therapeutic.  Right.  So was that picture you posted from the bar last night.

What do you mean forever?

Enjoy your fast food?  LIKE it on Facebook!
Tattoos have been used throughout the years to show support for tribes, countries, military branches, gangs, and any other group we belong to.  Just like on the internet, these emblems publicize who we are.  The fashion among Roman soldiers was to show loyalty to the royal house with tattoos of ivy leaves.  In effect, they were “liking” their group.

What groups are you in?  What do you like to do?  Are you political, jovial, religious, skeptical, romantic?  Are you devoted to family, your pets, or peace?  Do you believe in saving the planet, or just the whales?  Chances are there is a tattoo and a Facebook page just for you!


Friends proudly display symbols of status on their pages.  Lavish cruises, trips to the spa, and wild adventures are available to envy for anyone willing to scroll down the page.
Early tattoos also displayed symbols of status.  Some marked lines of decent or exploits in war and other events.  Modern inking might show how many lives one has taken, or how many children you have.

Social Media, in the wrong hands, can do real harm to a business or individual.
Tattoos have also been used to punish or harm other people as well.  Some ancient cultures tattooed their criminals.  Few can forget the permanent numbers marked on victims of the holocaust.  Slaves exported to Asia from the Roman Empire were tattooed with the words ‘Tax Paid.’  Next year I’m going to try that with my firstborn and the IRS.

DSCN1081Virtual hugs, ‘likes,’ and comments of support are restorative and contribute to our sense of well-being.
Amulets or images of protection were sometimes tapped into the skin of those going to war, or who were sick or pregnant.  Some of us wear elaborate crosses, stars, or angels to remind us we are part of something bigger.

Choose your privacy settings.
Privacy settings are important to consider on both social media and body art.  A design on the neck has been marked as ‘public.’  A tattoo on the breast is ‘private.’  If you can see the wearer’s tattoo, he is speaking to you.  Is it peering out from under the cuff of his business shirt?  It is not an accident.  He is speaking to you. Is it taunting you from her lower back?  She is whispering to you.  Is it blaring you right in the face as you speak to him?  He is shouting at you.

DSCN1088A privacy setting can tell us more about what is trying to be said.  A heart on the shoulder says “I am romantic.”  A heart on the derriere says, “I want to be romantic with you.”

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It is interesting to note that while we have all been taught that it is impolite to stare at others, most tattoos cannot fully appreciated without being stared at.  There are women who wear their neckline down to there, and then complain that someone is staring at their cleavage.  I have yet to hear someone complain that their tattoo is being stared at.  One cannot wear a tattoo and claim it is not there to be seen.  Is the popularity of tattoos a movement toward rejecting the polite mannerisms of our parents’ generation and daring others to stare?

DSCN1089Or are tattoos a way of getting around the disconnectedness of social media and other electronic communication?  Are tattoos our way of asking people to comment?  Are we using tattoos to help us state our status, support our cause and ask others to add us as their friend in real life?

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Trying to make sense of it all and . . . for the most part . . . doing it.

22 thoughts on “Are Tattoos The Original Social Media?

      1. I’ve seen some beautiful designs, with tribal wings (one was posted on your blog), or wings made of lace designs. I wanted a real biological representation. The guy who set up my appointment was trying to steer me toward a very cartoonish looking one. Yuck.

  1. Hey I always wanted a dragonfly tattoo as well… and I never got one either, even though I have designed a few… but it the knowledge that it is permanent I think that has held me at bay… also I do not like needles or pain…

    this was an interesting read Jean… thanx

    1. Well thank you for stopping by again! I have seen many fun dragonfly designs since, but I think one is enough. Thought about a dragonfly nymph, but they are one unattractive bug.

  2. Never quite thought of tattoos that way. My mom had always been against tattoos, whereas i felt tattoos were more or less a representative body art.

    Very interesting concept. Thanks for sharing (:

    1. And thank you for stopping by. I swung over to yours, and enjoyed relating to your take on exercise. I might have to write about my perspective on that someday, which isn’t completely off-track from yours!

  3. I have one tattoo on my arm, it is a sentimental reminder of a gift I received from my eldest son and gives me support on days I just want to give up and quit trying to fight my disability. I had always wanted a tattoo, but in my family the only way to be different was not to have one and I didn’t want to be like my siblings 🙂 I never thought of tattoos in this manner before, I just saw it as my progression in wanting to express my individuality and didn’t want any more piercings. (I have 4 on one ear and 1 on the other).

    When my boys became old enough to consider tattoos I told them to keep it where it wouldn’t be seen in a short sleeved shirt in case that would prevent them from getting a job they may have wanted in life. Today that doesn’t seem to be a problem as they are so common.

    Btw, I have always wanted a dragonfly one as well. If I ever get another one that is what it will be.

    1. I have 4 piercings on one ear, and one on the other! We are just two peas in a pod, aren’t we?

      It seems that having no tattoos is really the way to be different these days. I like that you use yours for strength. In a way, my dragonfly is for strength as well. Dragonflies are nimble, predatory insects that reflect back the light that shines on them. I try to be flexible, yet stand up for myself with a fight if necessary, and to always give back to others the beauty they show to me.

  4. Love your approach in this post! I can honestly say I’ve never thought of tattoos from a social media standpoint, but there are a lot more similarities than I realized. I think tattoos definitely command a conversation, whether it’s asking what it symbolizes or commenting to a friend how skanky a lower back butterfly tattoo is.

  5. Very interesting to see it that way. Makes perfect sense to me. I’m adverse to any kind of physical discomfort so no tattoos for me but don’t mind them on others. Don’t know how they’d look on wrinkled old skin. There is a lot of food for thought in your post.

  6. I liked this post! (unique perspective) I agree, too, about the person who has a tattoo and it’s just peeking at you…they have it covered, but then they don’t. Of course, I was curious if you had one…and you do – cool dragonfly! I like tattoos, but don’t have one. Great post.

  7. Love your perspective on this. You are so right, they really are like the original social media.
    I always wanted to get one, but with the privacy setting. The problem is I keep thinking what if I was to gain a bunch of weight, would the tattoo expand?! Would a little dolphin become a whale?

    1. Hehehe! I’ve seen some that were skewed after a pregnancy. And of course, gravity is a real bitch, isn’t it? I want it to stay where I put it, if you know what I mean!

    1. Dang! I didn’t put a none of the above in my poll! I guess I thought EVERYONE had SOMETHING! Well, Irish, you have certainly proved you are not like everyone.

      1. It’s my first poll. I will chalk it up to a learning experience. And you were my guinea pig . . . my little cave guinea pig!

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