Where Logic Meets Love

Why I Don't Post Pictures of Myself

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

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Why I Don't Post Pictures of Myself | Faith Permeating Life
A few weeks ago I had a guest post on She Got Married. I appreciate that Emma gave me the opportunity to post, although she mentioned in the post and in her e-mail to me that she was disappointed I wouldn't share any pictures of myself and Mike. (I did send her one picture, of our art project, but she didn't post it for some reason.) So I thought I should devote a post to talking about the issue of photos.

It's possible I will decide to post a picture of myself in the future, but for now, these are my reasons not to:
  • Semi-anonymity. I am a semi-anonymous blogger, which means, for me, that my friends and family know about my blog, but none of my coworkers do. I try not to write about work too often, and never anything really negative, but I do write about a lot of private things like sex and religion that the people I work with don't need to know about. If one of them were to stumble across my blog, they might eventually put two and two together, but putting a picture of myself would mean they'd identify me in about .02 seconds. On the flip side, I share my first name and my husband's name on here, but no one else's. This blog is out there so you can read my thoughts and have a conversation with me, not so you can get a complete picture of my entire life and track me down in person.
  • Snap judgments. Whether or not we like to admit it, I've taken enough psych classes and read enough books to know that people make judgments about you from the moments they see you or meet you. I much prefer to have my words stand on their own than for people to filter them through preconceived notions about my personality or my lifestyle because of a picture of myself. If you want to make a quick, dismissive judgment of me, at least do it based on what I've written and not because of my skin color or my hair color or the expression on my face.
  • Vanity... or lack thereof. For pretty much all of middle school and high school, I considered myself unattractive. Who doesn't at that age, right? Yeah, but... seriously. I was the only girl in my group of friends who didn't get asked to dances or "asked out." And my guy friends made it pretty clear that physical attractiveness was high on their list of requirements, which meant I had good reason to believe that no one found me attractive. At one point I considered getting surgery on my large nose (I didn't), and my mom, probably trying to be supportive, helped me plan for it, which confirmed my suspicions that everyone agreed on my lack of attractiveness. It wasn't until I was pursued by Mike in college and told many, many, many times that I was beautiful, that I started to believe it. Still, posting a picture of myself just opens up all sorts of concerns and self-consciousness. And while I know that simply by having a blog I open myself up to potential trolls and other rude comments, at least I know that if someone wants to rant and insult me by calling me ugly, they're doing so just out of their desire to be hurtful than any actual assessment of my face.
  • Lack of good pictures. This is silly but true. My Facebook picture is still a picture from our wedding two years ago. The picture I use for professional needs (LinkedIn, our website at work) was actually taken by a friend at a "photo shoot" my matron of honor arranged for my bachelorette party. Pictures of me from the past two years pretty much fall into two primary categories: Candid photos where I'm not smiling, or group photos where I'm outside with sunglasses or squinting or my face half in shadow. So I have no really good recent photos.
  • My relationship with photographs has changed. In high school, I was the group photographer among my friends. I wanted to major in photography in college (that's its own long tale). I took lots and lots and lots of photos. Then Facebook happened when I started college, and suddenly everyone else was taking a million photos to post on Facebook. And I just stopped. At some point among the people I knew, photography had stopped being an art or a talent and had become synonymous with "OMG I have to document every moment of my life." Mike also got me to question a lot of the cultural norms around photographs, like how people didn't use to smile for posed photos and now it's expected, or how someone will stop a group of people who are in the middle of a conversation or doing something fun and have them freeze for a picture. All of this is not so much a reason for not having a picture of myself, but it's a reason I don't post photos of my weekend or my vacation.
  • I used to have a photo blog. It ended badly. My senior year of high school, I had a greatestjournal (which doesn't exist anymore) where I posted my digital photos to share with friends and family. This was pre-Facebook, and it worked great -- I just had to give people the URL and they could visit the site and see my pictures. The summer after I graduated, I went on a mission trip with my church, where I was matched up with people from all over the country on a small crew that did work on a local family's home. At the end of the week, I gave everyone on my crew the link to my photo page so they could see the pictures I posted from the week. I'm not sure if anyone visited it except for the man who was our crew leader (all crews are one adult and 3-4 high schoolers), who commented on my post and thanked me for sharing the pictures. Then I went off to college and continued to post pictures for my friends and family. Then the crew leader started commenting on my posts... and it just weirded me out. He was probably a perfectly nice guy, but why did he keep checking back to see my pictures from college? I stopped posting pictures on the site. Then, later on, when I got prints made of my digital photos, I went back to get my captions from the site to jog my memory about the various photos, and found out that greatestjournal had been shut down. I found out that of all the possible journal sites I could have picked, I chose the one site that went down completely and left no traces. That whole experience turned me off from the idea of sharing my photos on the Internet.
So there you have it -- the reasons I ignore all the blogging advice to post pictures of my life, and instead just stick to words and stock photos.

What are your thoughts on posting pictures of yourself online? If you have a blog, do you include pictures of yourself and what's going on in your life? Does my decision not to post pictures affect how you see my blog?

One final note: If you are really dying to meet me in person for some reason, I will be at the 20 Something Bloggers summit the weekend after next. You don't have to be a 20-something to come. I hope to meet some of you there!

13 comments:

  1. I don't really post pictures of myself on my blog, either, but it's mostly because I don't have good ones to post. I used to be the person taking all the pictures, but now it seems like no one is ever taking them - for Facebook or otherwise - and I don't want to be the awkward person who keeps whipping out a camera. So no one takes pictures and I never have new exciting pictures to share - and if I did, I doubt they would be the same photographic quality of the other awesome bloggers out there.

    That, and I am also not incredibly thrilled with the idea of my coworkers finding my blog. I write knowing it's possible for people in my life to find it, but I'd rather make that as difficult for them as possible!

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  2. I understand where you are coming from completely, but for my part, I just love photography too much not to post photos (and I've never had a bad experience with photography).

    Also, I am all about visual art -- I love design and color. I obsessively edit my photos and tweak my blog design. For me, that's half the fun. (And to be completely honest, I may be a bit vain, though horribly insecure at the same time -- I'm a walking oxymoron; an anomaly, I'm sure).

    I once had an anonymous blog, where I only posted carefully executed shots that did not show my face (that was really tricky!) but then I decided to just go on and put myself out there completely and see what happened. No horrific experiences so far! Let's hope it stays that way...

    ...My face is in my header and my profile, but I don't know if people judge my blog by my looks And you know, I never even considered that they might. Now you've really got me thinking!

    For the time being, I am just glad that you can't hear my voice on my blog (I sound like a six year old -- when I talk to insurance, medical, ect. people on the phone, they always ask to speak to my mother, which is SO annoying, as I am a married woman of nearly 23.)

    That's why I may never post a vlog. I think people might just giggle...which I guess wouldn't be all that bad :)

    But anyways, it's up to you, of course! I'm sure you are lovely and in the end, I think your writing speaks for itself, regardless of the photos you choose to post.

    Okay, I think I have rambled quite enough now!

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  3. I think it all depends on the purpose you have for your blog. For example, our blog was created to keep in touch with family so I always have included pictures but at the same time I've never been opposed to the rest of the world stumbling upon it and reading it as well. I think it adds a personal touch to add photos but I will say people can go overboard. If I come upon a post that is primarily large self portraits of the author then I have to be REALLY interested to read all of it. I think self portraits are appropriate and expressive at times but if you use too many I become less interested. I think you could easily incorporate photos into your blog and it would be great but if you don't want to than don't! (Be Jessica. I just started reading The Happiness Project!)

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  4. I have never yet posted a photo on my site, which has been growing rapidly with blog software for more than 4 years and had a few old-fashioned HTML pages for 8 years before that. Here's my explanation of why I don't post photos. I agree with a lot of your reasons, too! An additional reason is that writing tends to take up more time than I have, and selecting pictures and getting them into place would take even more time.

    I feel that a lot of blogs use TOO MANY photos, often not very good or explanatory ones, and use them instead of explaining things clearly in words. I particularly get irritated when someone posts a recipe that sounds great, but there are a zillion photos of every dang step in the process interspersed with the instructions! There's no need for a photo of "add 1 tsp. cinnamon"!!

    I do have a couple of articles I've been meaning to write that almost require photos, so I can't say I have a 100% no-photos policy. I've just gotten by with no photos for 4+ years.

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  5. @Krys
    It sounds like we have similar experiences with taking pictures!

    I write knowing it's possible for people in my life to find it, but I'd rather make that as difficult for them as possible!
    That's exactly how I am about my coworkers. I always write with the assumption that one of them will eventually find my blog, but I try to avoid that happening as much as possible.

    @Hannah J. Holmes
    I've thought about saying, to heck with it, and posting pictures--probably nothing bad would happen, but then I don't really have a strong reason or desire to post pictures. If I ever do, then that might change.

    Hope I didn't make you feel insecure about people making judgments about you! It happens all day to everyone in real life and rarely does it have any big consequences. It's just a variable I've chosen to eliminate here.

    Thanks for sharing all your thoughts on this topic!

    @Caiti
    You are totally right that whether someone includes photos is related to their purpose for blogging. I've found no real reason to post photos, but as I mentioned, I once set up a site that was solely for that reason. I don't usually read blogs that are mostly photos unless I know the person, so I appreciate when people are clear on whether sharing photos is part of their purpose for blogging. I hate finding a blog with great, interesting writing that at some point down the road turns into 10 posts in a row of just photos.

    Let me know what you think of The Happiness Project! Have you read her blog at all?

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  6. @'Becca
    I realized that most of my favorite blogs (like yours) don't include any photos, which takes some of the pressure off. And I generally dislike blogs that are mostly photos. As you said, sometimes they're unnecessary (I just ran across one of those recipe blogs you mentioned!) and sometimes there are just lots and lots of pictures of people I don't know or care about, which, as Caiti said, are probably more for sharing with friends and family. I believe that most people are coming here because of the content and that they would probably think less of my blog if I posted a bunch of photos.

    I do still wrestle with whether to have a profile picture, but for the reasons in my post, I don't. I don't want people's impression of me to be based on a single photo.

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  7. @Jessica
    You know something funny? I forgot about this, but I also described in a feature on For the Love of Blogs, another reason I post pictures. I called pictures the "icing on the cake" because, like some people only lick the icing off a cupcake, others only look at the pictures on a blog.

    I remember a bigwig from Barnes and Noble describing why he chose to sell the company and one of the reasons was what he described as a decline in reading over the last 20 years, which is terrible and sad, but I guess I figure if I post pretty pictures, I can sustain a larger audience and perhaps encourage them to read the posts, at least sometimes. That's my way of thinking, at least!

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  8. Oh, but I forgot to mention that you are a really, really good writer, and since your blog focuses more on social issues and deep material, I think your current format without many photos works really, really well -- your messages stand on their own two feet, with or without photos. In my case, my blog is more for entertainment/humor and so the pictures suit it (I think!)

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  9. @Hannah J. Holmes
    Thanks, that makes me feel so good! When I was younger a lot of people encouraged me to always keep writing, so now that my main job is working with data (and my side job is editing other people's writing), it's nice to have this outlet to keep writing.

    I can definitely understand the analogy about the cupcake. It's really interesting to me to see how different people think about pictures on blogs--some people don't want to read blogs without pictures, some view them as a bonus, and some see them as getting in the way of the written word. It's been mentioned several times now, but I definitely agree that the type of blog or the goal of the blog makes a big difference in how well photos fit in.

    To each her own. Keep on doin' what you're doin'!

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  10. My blog is anonymous.. it's not like I'm writing negative things about people in my life, but I a pretty shy person and my blog is very personal. I don't want the people in my offline life to be reading it. I can be more honest this way. So no, I don't share photos either. I have a couple of photos of the back of my head and actually one or two of parts of my face when I wrote about acne, so I suppose if someone I knew found it, they would recognise me pretty quickly, but otherwise I'm not recognisable from my blog. I like it better that way.

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  11. @Just me
    It's nice to know I'm not alone on this! Some people think personal photos are vital to blogging, so I'm glad I'm not the only one who's chosen not to include them.

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  12. My blog is semi-anonymous- I don't use my or Hunky Husband's name, and we don't have any photos of our faces- but we do share the blog with certain friends and family. The nature of my blog, however, is DIY's and project ideas... so I do post pictures pretty often- sometimes it's much easier to explain something visually than verbally. I don't think it's absolutely necessary for many blogs to have photos, and some blogs have WAY too many. I appreciate your solid, thoughtful writing- no pictures needed.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! I do think it depends on the blog and the blogger. I have occasionally shared pictures, like of our meal plan system and of our books organized by color. I think certain posts (particularly, like you said, DIY projects, or recipes) benefit from having pictures, but I think it should follow from the content rather than a general notion that "blogs need pictures!"

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