Creating Awesome: Why no one ever posts unflattering photos of themselves on Facebook

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Photographic Evidence

photo by Chris Morin

I have a friend who, when she came skiing with me last year, wanted an action photo of herself. For her Facebook page. She’d seen a photo of me skiing powder, the snow billowing around my shoulders and over my head. She wanted one like that.

Thing is, she’d never really skied powder. And she was on rental skis.

On the wall in the rental shop was a photo of a woman schussing impressively, snow flying off her sparkling skis, her arms flying across the rugged landscape. This was an adventure, and she was living it fully. My friend wanted a photo of herself to show that she, too, had enjoyed an adventurous day on the mountain.

What my friend didn’t realize, most likely, was that the woman in the photo had probably skied the same exact turn several times now because the photographer hadn’t gotten the light quite right yet. After spending many days at Crystal Mountain with photographers and videographers, I’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes to get the right shot. Let’s just say this:  it’s not as exciting as it looks. Except for the shot Chris took of me above. That one was fun.

The Fire-stoking Nature of Instant Gratification

Stoking the Fire

Thanks to Facebook, we’ve all become a little more awesome. Just check those status updates and mobile uploads. Gone are the days when we hardly even remembered to take photos of ourselves, and when we did we barely ever had time to get the film developed. By the time we did get the envelope of photos back, we’d forgotten who was winning when we took that photo on the 50 yard line, and we couldn’t, for the life of us remember which hike last summer we’d stopped to take the photo of that waterfall. Those moments lost a little of their awesomeness when the commemoration lacked the ability to stoke the fire.

But now, we can take a photo of ourselves doing awesome things and bam!, all our friends get to see them too. Instantly. Check me out. I’m skiing powder. This is a great moment. Look at how white my teeth are in this photo.

The Beauty of Modern Life

This is an innate human drive dating back to caveman times when all our “friends” shared the same cave and all we had to do was roar or bring home a woolly mammoth to remind them how badass we were. But back then they also got to glimpse our more selfish moments. Like when we grabbed the woolly mammoth drumstick and scarfed it down before anyone else got a piece.

That’s the beauty of modern life. We can hide those negative flaws. No one ever posts unflattering pictures of themselves on Facebook. Not unless it’s a photo of their face half-eaten by a shark while they were saving a baby whale ensnared in a fishing net. Instead we roar our greatness to the world–like the time we climbed a mountain, or read an intelligent news story or our kids did something incredibly cute and potentially embarrassing someday. It’s all fodder for our Facebook profile.

Finding Awesome

Aha moment

So when my friend needed a new profile picture, I was happy to oblige. I brought along my Canon D90, readied the lens and watched as she traversed across the slope above me. She wasn’t bad. Her turns were actually pretty good. But this wasn’t going to be poster material. Maybe not even profile photo status.

My friend also has a photo of her “scuba diving” in a swimming pool in Vegas. And another one “hiking” in her backyard in Seattle. With just the right light and background, anything is possible. That’s what I love about my friend. She doesn’t need a grand landscape to enjoy the little moments. All she needs is a camera and the right outfit.

Finding Humility

Our online lives are full of awesomeness. Just check our status updates. Yesterday, I talked about my New Year’s Resolution: finding MAXIMUM ENTHUSIASM. And perhaps that’s exactly what Facebook and other social media allows us to do. We can recreate our experiences in the retelling. The story we tell about our lives becomes the new reality.

Just so long as we occasionally share a little vulnerability, it kind of works. No one really wants to be friends with a perfect person. That only makes you feel bad about yourself. Instead, we can share our photos and awesome moments with more enthusiasm and less ego.

As I continue on with my New Year’s resolution, I also plan on finding a little humility. Maybe I will share a less-flattering photo or two. Because even the moments that are less than amazing, when my physical feats sag a little and my teeth aren’t quite so white, are still AWESOME.

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11 responses »

  1. I find that many people are not the best judge of what’s appealing about them. I believe the most flattering photos of people tend to be those in which they’re genuinely happy and being themselves. Have you noticed that they often discard that photo because of the unflattering chin-line, or because their gums show when they smile that big, or they think they look better without glasses? Have you noticed that many actresses who’ve had bo-tox, face lifts, or nose jobs, now look perfect and young, but no longer look expressive, human, or unique. I have an old photo of myself trying to do a small jump on skis. I’m off-balance, graceless, goofy – not a great skier, like you, Kim. 🙂 You can tell I’m about to fall, but for a moment I’m pushing myself to fly, and I do catch just a few inches of air. I’ll have to scan that one, so I can post it.

    • Oh Cara, that photo sounds perfect. In fact, I have one of myself skiing Snoqualmie Pass when I was about 8 years old–full on snowplow, arms flying around, and a big smile on my face. Looking at that photo reminds me how much I’ve always enjoyed the sport of skiing. I’ll post that one.

  2. My Facebook posts caused further damage in a broken relationship with a person I cared about. After my boyfriend dumped me, he got upset seeing me hiking and biking with girlfriends and having fun. “Seems like you have more fun now that we broke up”. That wasn’t the intent of my posts, but that is how they were perceived, despite all the good times we did have together.

  3. Thanks for taking an “awesome” picture of ME for MY Facebook page….we had perfect light and the most perfect sunrise – and didn’t even need the fancy camera!!

  4. One of these days I will take a good photo. I have simply accepted that I will always look goofy in photos. I really dont mind though because in the end I know I have fun at whatever it is that I do. I have fun at work (also a ski patroller), I have fun at home with my wife and kids and I have fun even when what im doing is not all that great. FB is great and all but you would never know how much fun I really have by just seeing my profile.

  5. Love this post. yea, I think the best photos are not necessarily the most “flattering” but the most real. It’s hard to get those photos, really, because mostly we pose. BTW, Jarred love your ‘tude.

  6. The more awesome and exciting and fun someone’s life looks based on their Facebook profile, the more I think they’re compensating for something. It’s no secret that I can’t stand that site. I think we’d all be way better off without it; maybe then we’d go back to being real, or at least it would be a lot harder to be fake!

    I’m definitely not posting any ugly pictures of myself though. That’s asking too much.

  7. Pingback: Join Me Today at Alpental Ski Area « Kim Kircher

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