We’re living in what the French philosopher Michel Serres calls the “Thumbelina Generation”: Instead of talking with our mouths, we’re creating vast visual and textual worlds with finger taps and swipes. And hands aren’t just the drivers of online communication. Now they’re the stars of it, too. Facebook is crawling with “hands-only” videos in which pairs of gorgeous paws wield glue guns and mix slime and cook mini churros or whatever.
I’m conflicted about this trend. On the one hand (I am very sorry), it feels nice to give the face a break, along with all of the cultural baggage the selfie brings. On the other hand, I have crazy hands and please do not look at them. They are the dry, raw, nibbled-on manifestations of my anxiety. And so I D.I.Y. vicariously through the strong, supple hands of Facebook.com, mesmerized by the screen, destroying my own cuticles.
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Talk to the hands featured here: That’s BeBe Zahara Benet giving face at the beginning, from the video for RuPaul’s 2009 single “Cover Girl.” The man covering Jewel’s “Hands” is singer-songwriter Kyle Hancharick, and I love him; you can find his album here. Scott Loitsch is the man with the hands from which you cannot look away. Ellen Sirot is the hand supermodel featured in this legendary interview. Cardi B’s nail tech is the “Queen of Bling” Jenny Bui; witness her creations @nailson7th.
Hey: Before this was an episode of “Internetting,” it was an article in The New York Times. I’m indebted to Mr. Loitsch, a producer for Tasty, and Andrew Gauthier, BuzzFeed’s head of video, for speaking to me about how they work with their hands, and to Tubular Labs for providing stats on hands-only videos. Also to James Leo Cahill, a cinema studies professor at the University of Toronto, who put all this hand business in world-historical context: “We’ve seen a re-enchantment of the hand,” he told me. “It’s finally getting its due as an onscreen organ.”