The pretty picture divide

I’ve always kind of hated looking at pictures of myself. I’m one of those people who is always surprised by how awful I look, and think “it must be the lighting” while simultaneously trying not to notice that every else in the picture looks exactly like they do all the time. I probably have some unconscious self-perception that I look like Robert Downey Jr, when in reality I look closer to a disheveled Philip Seymour Hoffman. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. (And as an aside, go see Charlie Wilson’s War – it’s quite good and PSH steals the film.)

Today I was chatting with Barry, our head of design, and he has a theory that helps rescue the tattered shreds of my self-esteem. He’s noticed an age-related gap on social networking sites like Facebook in personal photo quality – anyone under 25 looks really good in all of their pictures, while the rest of us look pudgy and a bit stunned. His theory is that it’s because those of us of a certain age grew up with pictures being taken mostly on special occasions like birthdays and holidays, and usually with some warning of “say cheese.” We never really learned how to have our picture properly taken. But with ubiquitous casual digital photography, the young ‘uns grew up being used to taking and seeing many more photos of themselves, and have learned to quickly throw a pose in any situation. They are photo-literate.

So that’s why I look so awful in pictures. It’s because of the digital photo divide. At least, that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Published by jasonoke

Global Client Leader, WPP Married to @meredithoke. I have some kids. I travel. I eat. I internet.

9 thoughts on “The pretty picture divide

  1. You know that’s probably it. This is especially observable in Asia with its proliferation of photo booths. The younger generation know their kawaii poses; their necks seem to find a natural angle of inclination that tilts their heads just so, like clockwork spontaneously paused.

  2. wow – used to work on a camera brand and never made that observation. noticed an increase in people pics vs. things (but that also reverses when owners upgrade from digital point and shoots to DSLRs – though i think with camera phones getting better and better we’ll see a document things –> peeps –> things cycle going on. interesting theory though – i’m heading to facebook now.

  3. I believe this to be true. In fact, a younger colleague of mine was the topic of a National Post article last year speaking to the importance of finding ones photo face. And she’s mastered it…looking sullen one moment, casual cool the next. It’s all about practice, she say…many hours spent in front of a mirror. I, on the other hand, run as quickly as possible away from the lens to the other side of the digital camera.

  4. this made me chuckle.

    i’m not sure if i fall into the “‘young ‘uns” category…but over the past few years i’ve noticed that when i am out with friends or someone is clutching a camera nearby, i feel like i need to get my ‘photo op’ face on. and i’m sure these days i automatically think great, is this going on Facebook? hah. it’s quite scary, actually.

  5. Really interesting insight, just this weekend I was looking at photos in my son’s Facebook[ don’t recommend it] and was wondering why all of these kids seemed to be so photogenic, now I know it’s ‘photosavvy’ too.

  6. Great observation. Having recently turned 26, I think I fall somewhere in between the two groups. I take a good shot roughly half the time.

    Here’s a tip for those struggling for photo literacy – try to muscle memorize your ‘mirror face’. At least you know what to expect then.

    *if you don’t think you have a mirror-face, look into it. The unscientific research I’ve done suggests everyone has one. Mine involves an eyebrow raise and a downward head-tilt.

  7. Great insight. Helped solve a mystery that’s plagued me for years. Brings to mind an old episode of Friends, where Chandler can’t smile properly in photos, so he gets Joey to stand in for him.

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