The year was 2008. Facebook had only been around for us for just over a year or so, only starting to gain traction. It was still a relatively adult-free space, despite having opened up for anyone with a valid email address. It was quieter then, freer. No parents or aunts around to see our binge drinking albums.

Uploading photos to Facebook worked differently then too. You needed a digital camera to take them because even if you were lucky enough to have a camera phone, those pictures would be small, grainy and certainly not Facebook quality. From the digital camera, you’d pop the memory card into your computer to view the full-sized pictures. Then you’d have to upload them onto Facebook and after about 15 minutes of buffering, they would eventually post. There wasn’t much picture editing back then, unless you were a Photoshop buff. Otherwise, pictures just had to be posted as is, no filters, no frills. The horror.

It was Valentine’s Day. My parents were out of town and my first boyfriend and I were baking heart shaped cookies, and of course, taking plenty of pictures for Facebook.

“Have you seen girls posting pictures in those ridiculous poses?” I ask him, high up on my not-like-the-other-girls pedestal.

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“You know, it’s a thing now. They contort their bodies in the weirdest and most unnatural ways,” I explained. I couldn’t just pull out my phone and show him the pictures back then. I would have to go onto a computer and log into Facebook to access them. Instead, I decided to demonstrate. “Like this.”

I picked up the tray of cookies we’d just assembled and held it out in my right hand. I jutted out my right hip and extended my leg impossibly far away from my body. I shifted all of my weight onto my stable left leg, popping out my bum and leaning far back into it. I pushed my chest forward for maximum mocking, laughing at how awkward it felt. My boyfriend snapped away with my digital camera.

Later that night, when I reviewed the pictures we’d taken, I was shocked by what I found. Those super posed pictures looked great! They didn’t look awkward at all. Quite the opposite, really. I’d never seen myself look so good. My smile looked natural and not forced. My legs looked slim, and my posture was excellent. The thin line of exposed midriff between my low rise sweat pants and tank top didn’t disgust me. For a girl battling with constant self-esteem and body issues, this was significant. I’d never considered myself to be the least bit attractive before.

The next day, I promptly made that picture my profile picture. The comments came in shortly. A compliment from the cutest boy at the restaurant I worked at. My cousin said I was skinny. People messaged me about it on MSN. It was the first time anything I’d posted had gotten such a positive reaction.

And I loved it. I loved that people liked my picture. It felt good. I understood then that I was no different than the girls I’d been mocking, trying to capture their best angles. In reality, external validation feels good. Seeing yourself in a positive light is good. Much better than feeling embarrassed in your own skin.

So now the year is 2021. And social media exists in many different shapes and forms. It’s not something we have to pull out our computers for, it’s readily available to us 24/7, within the phones permanently affixed to our hands.

Now we all know, social media can be a dangerous place where people carefully bend reality to display its best bits. And it’s much worse these days with filters and editing apps so readily available. People create this ideal beige toned utopia on their pages carefully omitting any shades of blue. They go really far for those bursts of dopamine that come from other people liking their posts. And I get it. But it can obviously be a problem.

But social media is not all bad, is it? Sure it’s mind numbingly addictive and can eat away hours at a time, but I actually think 15 and 18 and even 21 year old me could have benefited from social media in its current state. There are so many great resources out there, so much positivity, so much realness despite all the filtration. If I had followed an Instagram account telling me the things I’d experienced were not my fault, and that other people had been there too, I think I would have grown up healthier. If I had known the simple, obvious things that I’ve learned through social media, I would have been happier. Realizing I wasn’t as alone as I felt back then would have made a world of positive difference.

And blogging. I’m so grateful to have found a space where I can share my rambling thoughts with an online community that is so supportive and kind. Bloggers are the internet’s best kept secret; the nicest people anywhere on the web. Being able to share whatever pops into my head and have people not only like and comment, but relate and even share their own similar experiences is an incredible experience. Feeling confident to even post here is a feat I attribute purely to the positive power of social media.

I think as we navigate these platforms, seeking validation to some degree is fine. Natural. Positive. It can be a really great experience. It’s human nature. We’re social beings. People have been sharing photos since long before social media existed. And before that they painted portraits. But it can certainly be a slippery slope to becoming a bad thing. Fake. Negative. Truncated. It’s important to remember why and what you’re sharing. It’s important to remember that other people are carefully curating what they’re sharing too.

At the end of the day, striking a healthy balance online is as important as striking that perfect pose.

2008

37 thoughts on “The Poser

  1. Ah, the simpler days of Facebook, before the dreaded algorithm came into being. One thing that I hated was that you could no longer be up-to-date with the chronological timeline of people’s posts and photos on the Facebook Feed, and now FB is just a cesspool of repeated memes and ads. I still keep Facebook around, though, as I have my high school and international friends on there, but I’ve since gravitated to other platforms like Instagram and WordPress over the years. I give credit to Facebook for introducing me to the wonders (and dangers) of social media, but now it’s time to move on…

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Good perspective, Alexis. Like a lot of things, social media is what you make it. Families who live far apart have a great way to share their experiences, how the kids are growing, etc. Important life events get announced and congratulations pour in. It can also be a place people spew venom and gossip and spread hate. We choose what we post and what we read and respond to. I agree, blogging has created some great friendships, dialogues, and learning. I’m still amazed that I can share my thoughts and insights with people all over the world without leaving my home!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post! I remember those pre-algorithm days. Facebook was a much better place then. It sucks now and I spend less time on it now. But I love the blogosphere! And you’re so right about blogging, you meet the best and most authentic people on WordPress! I’ve meet some awesome people here from all cornersof the globe!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have to agree with the response that the old FB was used for better purposes than it is now. I joined it as an adult (I already was one when it was introduced!) and liked being able to see posts from family and friends – a subtle way to know that they were still alive, perhaps? I don’t use any of the other social media sites because it becomes work keeping up with all of them on a regular basis. I used to spend at least 2 hours on FB daily, but as it continues to evolve – especially with more sponsored ads (many of them are scams) – my time there is now less than an hour daily. I scan through my news feed quickly and only stop to read posts from people I know. I seldom post anything except memes which I find humorous.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember signing on to Facebook in 2005 and there weren’t a lot of people on then. I remember it (Facebook) changed in 2009 and I absolutely hated the changes. Scrolling went from top to bottom to this stupid bottom to top thing that all social media (including WP) does now. Amongst a bunch of other stuff.

    I love that, the posing. At the time I was married and I remember having a similar conversation with him and I think I even have a couple of those old photos kicking around my PC still. This was back when I actually took real photos (not the phone thing) and edited them pixel by pixel. My how the days have changed! Of course, I remember dial-up and when we got _gasp_ cordless phones!! Haha.

    Great piece. You’ve made me smile today.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great story! I enjoy your writing. I believe social media can go both ways. I live an isolated life and am grateful for the connections I’ve made via my blogs and my FB account. I have friends I used to talk to on the phone at length, or write letters to and now I’m lucky if they send me a text or occasionally message me via FB. At the same time I’ve seen how much bullying goes on, betrayals, etc on social media where people feel empowered to just react and diss what I’ve posted with no discussion at all. The “influencer” trend is also alarming to me, with these people gathering thousands of followers who hang on every word, attempt to dress like them, talk like them, live like them. High School was hard enough for me even though I had learned to hide my sensitive/mystical/metaphysical/spiritual self and tried to fit in, as I saw the way teenage girls led the pack, lied and turned people against me. I would not want to have had to deal with all that going on on FB. Teen suicide has increased with the growth of social media, as well as school shootings and bullying. I’m also glad I didn’t go to school during the era of everyone having a camera in hand at all moments 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Excellent points! Falling down a rabbit hole of negative comments on social media can be so disheartening. People can be so mean online. I’m glad that when I was in school there was a very real distinction between being on and offline.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and stopping by 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice post, i agree. I used to spend more time on fb until everyone started with pictures of their food. Remember that? Ugh. But it is nice to keep in touch with old friends and family even if just superficially. Thanks for the well thought out post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! The food trend was very strange. But I keep it around for the same reasons at you, it’s nice to have a little insight into the lives of friends and family, especially those you can’t see on a regular basis.

      Like

  8. I like your call for balance. I grew up without a phone and with computers only as a teen. I worry about the screen damage for my own kids and also how taking a photo of something has become more important than experiencing it in real time. I am grateful for the blogosphere. It does feel more like a home and someplace where I can be myself in a more moderately filtered way. Cheers to you!

    Like

  9. Solid post, Alexis. Social media is here to stay so best to focus on its upsides. As a baby-boomer I never had enough exposure to FB, Twitter, and Instagram to relate to how people spend hours scrolling on their phones (or hours playing video games). But I’m much more concerned about the influencers, the sham-celebrities who rob the sheep of their individual identities. Like college start to finish, it’s a matter of navigating the choices carefully, and somehow emerging on the other side a more mature and educated individual.

    Like

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