Sunday, May 8, 2011

About ten seconds ago, I decided that I needed to stop looking at pictures of myself on Facebook and start writing this blog. And now here I am. Magic. I don't know why I fall into this trap of flicking through digital albums of the past four years of my life. It could be my self absorption. It could be plain old procrastination. I'm not sure.

Whenever I add a person on Facebook--most times, I should say--I then review my own profile just to get a sense of what kind of idea my new "friend" is going to get from it. I look over everything I have down for books, movies, quotes, stupid 'About me' and pictures. Sometimes I feel an urge to change something, take down a band, rephrase a sentence, untag a photo and then I tell myself not to--mostly it's the pictures. I feel like changing your profile because of what other people might think is like changing who you are and then I have this sense of shame for even considering it. Why would I hide who I am, try to detach myself from pictures in which I don't find myself looking favourably? That's still me and there's nothing wrong with me so why do I have a problem with others seeing it?

I think that's the fascinating thing about Facebook. In most respects, we get to choose how we are portrayed to the world while at the same time being asked to fit into different boxes, have political and religious views, be interested in men or women, friendship or a relationship. Pick your favourite books or games or sports or movies and write down your favourite quotes. Apart from the silly 'About me' section, there's no real space to make your own. You can't invent your own categories or expand what you want to say. When signing up for Facebook, you confine yourself to its framework. And when you start to forget that, start to think of friends as nothing more than a database of people and relationships as just something that has to be somehow measured online, that's when it gets scary for me.

But that was something of a tangent from where I was going. An interesting tangent but let me take us back to my Facebook album, all the pictures I'm currently tagged in. It's like a visual history, the moments that have apparently been relevant in the last four years of my life. Four years of friends, travel, awkward smiles, action shots,  vanity and self consciousness. It almost trivializes my memory to be able to flick through these moments in a few minutes online.

This is probably only magnified by my looming birthday. I'm so many contradictions at this moment. Looking at those pictures of 13-year-old me, I feel like I've grown so much and yet so little. I'm so different but still the same. I feel so much older but what's changed? The failing of the pictures is that they don't tell me any of this. You can watch the change of my face shape but not the internal growth. You can see some of the things I cared about versus the things that I didn't pay attention to. It's like a visual guide to my life but, to anyone but me, not much more.

Of course it has personal meaning but without the internal monologue going on, memories rising to the surface as each image triggers some special moment, what does this look like from another perspective? Would it mean anything to a stranger and does it even matter whether it does or doesn't?

These are the kind of things I think about as I chart the changes in my physical appearances, photo by photo. Who am I in 'real life' as opposed to the person plastered over different facets of the internet? Is it more harmful or helpful to be able to highlight or cover different parts of yourself when online?

I'll leave you there. Hopefully this wasn't too meandering or pointless. Farewell, friends.

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