I’ve been to a lot of weddings over the past year, and they’ve all been a lot of fun. Except for what comes afterwards – the inevitable Facebook sharing of the photos. Because that means I have to look at photos of myself, usually gurning hideously (why am I never captured on camera smiling serenely? I always seem to be caught mid-grimace).And like a lot of people, that’s not something I enjoy. In Saturday’s Times, writer Leah Hardy wrote about her own hatred of looking at her holiday snaps. It’s a good piece, with which I think a lot of us will be able to identify: like Hardy, we’re perfectly happy with the way we look most of the time, aware that we’re reasonably attractive, but we’re capable of being plunged into despair by a photograph of us laughing with our friends. And psychologist Linda Papadopoulos makes a good point:
Papadopoulos says that in the old days people used to compare themselves with their neighbours and friends. “But today we are more likely to compare ourselves with the airbrushed images of perfection we see in magazines and on movie screens. These are not only of the most beautiful people on Earth, at the peak of youth and fitness – but they have also been professionally made-up and styled. It’s hardly surprising that we don’t feel we match up. The bar is impossibly high.”
But here’s the good news – we’re not really as hideous as we look on Facebook!
“Photographs aren’t very representative of what we look like in reality,” she says. “It is just a record of one static moment. People are never completely still like they are in a photograph, and animation changes the way we look. In studies, people are often rated as significantly better-looking in person than in photographs, and that’s because of personal qualities, such as confidence.”
But some day we might regret our camera-phobia. Like Leah Hardy, I have relatively few photos of myself taken after I moved out of the familial home. The purchase of a digital camera has changed things a bit, but my avoidance of the camera (and the fact that my partner has no interest in taking snaps) means that most of my twenties are visually undocumented. And I suspect that in twenty or thirty years, I’ll wish I’d gurned for the camera a little more often.