This is the one Facebook notification that makes me feel all twitchy and ill. When I see it, my palms starting sweating and I move my mouse slowly, rolling my eyes toward the ceiling and saying a quick prayer before I click and see what hell awaits me.
This is what it means to have Facebook Photo Phobia©.
It began with a milder disorder. In the pre-Internet age, I definitely had Generalized Photo Phobia©. I loathe having my picture taken. I always smile too bright and have often been described as having a “Kool-Aid” smile.
And then, there’s the issue of my teeth. I sucked my thumb for ten years. So for a looong time, my Kool-Aid smile showed off a gnarled box of teeth that looked like they were all dashing off in different directions. I had an overbite, a large space between my two front teeth and a mouth full of bright pink gums that were highly visible.
We won’t even talk about how my mom gave up on doing my hair when I was about two.
So me and photos just never got along.
As an adult, I loved to jump in front of a camera and smile. But I’ve always wanted to burn the results. In some cultures, it is believed that photos can steal your soul. In my case, photos just steal every part of me that makes me look halfway decent.
Now we’re living in the age of Facebook. It’s got the word face in the title for a reason. So now my phobia is enhanced. And I’m not the only one. Everyday, I see the updates:
Ninety-six of your friends have changed their profile pictures.
96!! 96 of you people changed your photos today! What are you all DOING?!
You all have the Phobia too. You want just the right shot to represent you. Should you look demure? Should it be obvious that you took the picture yourself? Crop out the boyfriend? Leave in the kid? Don’t front—you obsess over your profile picture just like I obsess over every picture I take.
My girl Tai has a great profile picture.
When I run into her at Starbucks, (my old office), she’s always cute and well put together. But that profile picture? Damn! She’s hot! She makes me not want to ever put up a current pic. EVER.
My boy Anslem’s got a great one too.
He’s going for the who-me?-did-someone-just-take-my-picture-why-i-had-no-idea effect. It works for him.
My old roommate Dylan has a super serious look on her face in her picture. But I know why she really chose that picture. Cause she’s got the thickest head of hair I’ve ever seen on a white girl and she knows that picture does it justice. You ain’t slick Dylan, you know those bangs are fly.
Now how the hell can I find the right profile picture when I hate every photo ever taken of me in the history of Kodak?
So I did the sucker move. I posted a picture of me and my baby sister circa 1979.
And I’ve never changed it. Ever.
Then, David Ramsay, my childhood friend from East Orange, got real slick with it. Tagged me in a picture from a childhood birthday party in the late 70s.
My undone hair is straight up on display. My teeth are…my teeth. And I’m sort of looking down, eyes away from the camera. Even at a young age, I wasn’t feeling it.
If I must have my picture taken, I like to control how and where it will appear. And those days are over. If I’m going to be a part of the online world, I have to let go of that part of me that feels insecure and angst-y about people peering at me.
I’m actually embarrassed about how anal I can be about the whole thing. Right before I got on Facebook, I was honored by the Rutgers African American Alumni Alliance. They have an annual Hall of Fame Awards. I was selected and inducted last year. After the event, one of the organizers posted pictures on Facebook and of course tagged me in the photos.
It’s a very benign photo. I look normal, holding my plaque with my fellow honorees. And yet, I completely freaked out. I emailed the event organizer and asked her to take down the photo. (I didn’t know I could simply un-tag myself at the time. I didn’t even know what a tag was. Ugh.) I know she must have thought, is this chick nuts? She wants me to take down a photo of herself getting an award?! On our Facebook group page?
So lame, I know.
But I’ve gotten better. A little. Until today. When I saw the words…
Portia tagged you in a photo.
I groaned. Out loud. Now let me tell you about my girl Portia. I love her. We go back to 9th grade. She knows all my secrets (all the good ones anyway) and vice-versa. We’ve got history. I mean like, stopped-speaking-for-five-years-cause-you-started-dating-my-man-after-we-broke-up history. She is what Wendy Williams would call a rocking chair friend. The one you know you will end up on the front porch with in your old age, a blanket on your lap, a smile on your lips, talking about the good old days.
So yeah, that’s my girl. But I know how reckless she can be when it comes to photos. See, Portia has this book of memories from 1988. There are some very incriminating photos of me in that book. Me smiling too hard. Me with my hair looking too crazy. (Think colored hair gels and crimping irons. Shudder.)
And we all know that people think it’s cute to scan-and-post these oldies but goodies.
I held my breath and clicked through.
There I was. Poolside at Portia’s 30th birthday party. Portia, sporting a sensible cover up and a one-piece, black bathing suit, looking age-appropriate. Me, wearing a freaking bright blue string-bikini we’d bought two minutes before from Target.
There should be no pictures of me on Facebook. But if they do slip by, they can’t be any pictures of me in which my belly button, feet, cleavage, and general vaginal area can be scoped in any way, shape or form.
ESPECIALLY WHEN I DON’T LOOK ANYTHING LIKE THAT ANYMORE.
I’m sorry. I’m yelling. But thirty-five year old me makes a point to not look at pictures of 30 year old pre-babies me. It’s just not right.
So damn if I’m gonna let all of Facebook size me up.
I untagged myself quickly and left a comment. Something along the lines of, girl is you crazy? But was un-tagging myself enough? I had a quick text-mail session with my assistant, Del.
Me: my high school friend just put a picture of me in a bikini on facebook.
Del: not cool.
Me: I already untagged. Can ALL my friends see the pic or just all her friends?
Del: everyone can see it. Period.
I went into my email box to contact Portia. But she had already hit me up.
I apologize…I deleted the pic. -P
Disaster averted. If you weren’t online between 12:30 and 1:30 today, you missed my naughty bits. And let’s all thank the Lord for that.
But the whole thing does have me thinking. Am I overreacting? Is it really that serious? Dear readers…Do you care about what photos of you are on Facebook or anywhere else? Where do you draw the line? I’d love to hear from you… Would you be freaked out if someone posted a picture like THIS of you?