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One of life’s biggest questions is “what should I change my profile picture to?”  Okay, so obviously I’m being facetious, but it seems that in today’s day and age people are constantly worrying about how they are perceived by the Facebook world.  Facebook, and social media in general, allows us to create and portray whatever version of ourselves we want with just the click of a few buttons. Some people put a lot of importance on their Facebook profiles because they want to be perceived in the best way possible by their peers.

Posting Photos
The great thing about Facebook is that it provides us with the options of adding and tagging photos.  This can be an asset when it comes to sharing photos and firsthand experiences with friends.  An even better Facebook option is the ability for users to delete photos of themselves that they are not particularly fond of or do not find flattering enough.  With these photo-screening options, Facebook users are able to create a profile of themselves that they want the world to see.  This may be a huge generalization, but I have found these trends to be more common in females.  Girls will post hundreds of photos of themselves because they like the way their makeup looks, or they were having a good hair day, or some other superficial reasoning.  The photos that they allow the world to see are only the ones that they believe were taken when they were looking their best. According to The New York Times, studies show a strong correlation between Facebook and narcissism. Not only are these people’s Facebook profiles a “filtered” version of themselves, but they lead people to be more self-involved and narcissistic.

Building Self-Esteem
What is it about Facebook that has brainwashed us into posting private aspects of our lives for the public to see?  We delete the hundreds of photos of ourselves that we hate, and then we add the select few photos of ourselves to Facebook that have made the cut.  Our generation has grown to rely on social media to build self-esteem, and every “Like” that we receive on a photo builds up our confidence just a little bit more.  What would be the rationale behind one person posting hundreds of photos of themselves where they basically look the same in every picture?  My theory is that they post the photos for the comments and “Likes” that they will receive from their friends to gain a sense of self-worth. According to a Canadian study covered by The Globe and Mail, individuals with extremely high self-esteem and low self-esteem spent more time on Facebook than people with a healthy or average amount of self-esteem. My guess would be that the narcissists use Facebook to add fuel to their love of themselves, and that those with low-self esteem resort to Facebook because they seek the acceptance and approval of their peers.

“Selfies”
Society’s obsession with social media has led to a more conceited, narcissistic generation.  People are constantly updating their profiles with new photos of themselves.  There is also a trend of people spending more time worrying about taking photos than actually experiencing events and living in the moment.  The infamous “selfie” photo has led people to putting a large amount pressure on their looks, spending more time in front of the mirror, and posing for the camera.  If I were to go to a number of people’s profiles on my own Facebook account, I would find more than enough examples of individuals taking hundreds of self-shots to share with the Facebook world.  “Selfies” are just one more example of how social media has led us to become more obsessed with ourselves and how we may appear to others.

Photoshop
People often post photos of themselves with their skin looking flawless, their eyes glistening, their hair falling perfectly, and the lighting just right.  While these photos might make other viewers feel unattractive, it is important to remember many people’s secret weapon: Photoshop.  These computer-savvy people have learned how to use this program to manipulate photographs of themselves to perfection.  In the same way magazine editors airbrush and alter photos of celebrities, many Facebook users know how to use the Photoshop program to enhance or “beautify” photos of themselves. In the same article by The New York Times, the study found that people with high levels of narcissism were more likely to post digitally enhanced (Photoshopped) personal photos.  As you can see in the comparisons below, it is very easy to manipulate a photograph into a depiction of perfection. While both of these women look beautiful in their ‘before’ photos as well as their ‘after’ photos, it is easy to notice where the photos have been altered.

Penelope-Cruz-Pre-and-Post-Photoshop
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Fake Accounts and Photos
While some people deceive the Facebook world through manipulated imagery of themselves, other people may go as far as creating a completely different online persona of themselves. If you have ever seen the television show “Catfish”, you will know that fake Facebook accounts are more common in our society than we once thought.  This MTV documentary goes behind the scenes into the lives and relationships that have been built online through Facebook profile deception.

Using fake photos, individuals create an online personality of the ultimate person that they wish they could be.  Thanks to the anonymity that online social media provides, users have the potential to hide behind their profiles and lead people to believe they are someone else.  People often post fake or stolen pictures that they attempt to pass off as their own, while expressing themselves through this double-life.

Concluding Thoughts
With all of that being said, photography is a huge part of computers and the internet.  Humans are visual learners and the internet is a highly stimulating “world” full of imagery and illusion.  There are many benefits to the ease of sharing photos through online social media such as Facebook.  However, we must keep in mind that what we read and see on the internet is not always what it seems.  Photography can be used to benefit and enhance our computer experiences, but it can also be used in deceitful or narcissistic ways. Facebook has given us the power to pick and choose exactly how we want to be perceived through social media, leading to filtered and unauthentic online versions of our real-life selves.

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