Monthly Archives: January 2015

“Why my profile picture isn’t a sunset”, or “Every Occasion is a Selfie Occasion!”

Obligatory New Year Greeting!

Actually, my blog today does have a “New Year’s Resolution” flavour, but it’s been percolating for a while and I want to stress that I don’t endorse the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. Being “the way I am” (a perfectionist with low self esteem but kinda high self esteem but I must be the worst but now I am confused so should probably eat all the cheesecake), I struggle pretty much every day, if not every minute, to be something better than I am; resolutions seem a) unnecessary and b) a chance to sink into a puddle of self-loathing by mid-January every single year.

Which brings us to profile pictures!

I tend to focus on Facebook as my social networking platform, which the language of this post may reflect, but many websites that require us to choose a username also require us to upload a photo that represents Who We Are. For example, wordpress requires bloggers to profile themselves with an image. Until today, mine was a picture of a $20 bill with googly eyes pasted on the Queen (which, to be clear, was awesome):

20 with googly eyes

Before typing today’s blog, I switched my profile to a picture of my actual face:

Can you spot the googly eyes?
Can you spot the googly eyes?

(Which is also awesome, according to my husband, my close friends, and my mother. Usually flattering sources, regardless of their reliability.)

So why the switch?

I recently had to face a hard fact:  for me, my online persona is the only persona that really matters (hyperbole alert – but let’s keep on topic here, ok?).  On Facebook, for instance, people are in touch with anywhere between 1 and 500 friends (I’m not qualified to comment on anyone’s experiences with over 500 “friends”).  In reality, many of these friends are bare acquaintances, or are people we haven’t actually seen in the flesh for 20 odd years; but we interact with a bare fraction of that number of people in our physical lives, so I argue that we can become much more concerned about how we present ourselves to the stranger-friends of the interweb than to the people we live and interact with in close quarters.

So, again, why the switch?  What does this obsession with the opinions of near-strangers have to do with my replacing pictures of inanimate objects*,

My actual wisdom teeth.  I decline comment on the colour integrity of the image.
My actual wisdom teeth. I decline comment on the colour integrity of the image.

pets*,

Serenity (named after the spaceship, not the state of mind).
Serenity (named after the spaceship, not the state of mind).

and photoshopped versions of myself

My very first profile picture.
My very first profile picture.

with pictures of something that actually represents my current physical  existence?

It’s simple, really.  I’m trying to love myself for who and what I am now, not for what I was 60 lbs ago or 10 years ago; how is it possible to succeed in this task if I’m forever hiding my appearance from the people I post at several times a day?  I realized that I was becoming more and more ashamed of my appearance, and as that happened I was updating my profile picture less and less.  It was as if I didn’t really exist anymore, or like I was trying to lose my physical self and become an anonymous text bubble on the internet.  This practice was not conducive to building self-esteem and more robust mental health.

So “Every Occasion is a Selfie Occasion!” was born. first selfie

Whenever I think of it (often if I’ve just spent some time on my appearance, but not always), I take a selfie and make it my profile pic on facebook.   As much as possible at this point in my emotional development, these pictures represent ME, RIGHT NOW and show the world I’m not ashamed of myself or my appearance.  It can be nerve-wracking, as I’ve mentioned before that I have an inconvenient habit of treating compliments like criticisms (social anxiety! you dog, you!), but on the whole I’ve found it to be a positive experience.

If you currently have a sunset, or a grumpy cat meme, or an inspirational poster as a profile picture, I highly recommend you try celebrating some selfie occasions.  Let me know how it works out in comments.

 *For the record, I most definitely still see a place for pictures of inanimate objects and pets on my internet profile pages, just not as representations of myself.  My wisdom teeth deserve to be shown far and wide, and you curtail my kitten picture posting at your own peril. 

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