April 24, 2012

Picturing Yourself in a New Way

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During what is (usually) the most glorious time of year, springtime in Ithaca, sangria is sipped outside of C.T.B., classes are held on the arts quad, every a capella group has a final show and the whole campus eagerly awaits one last day of University-endorsed debauchery, slope day. However, students are also bogged down by the anxiety of looming exams, teary final good-byes and the stress of summer jobs. As if this bittersweet time weren’t heavy enough, Facebook has made it tougher for those of us who have worked hard since January to resist The Man: we will all be forced to use Facebook Timeline against our will very, very soon.For those of you who live under a rock (or haven’t been out of Uris cocktail lounge since late last year when Timeline was first introduced), Facebook created an entirely new profile that, according to them, “gives you an easy way to rediscover things you shared, and collect your most important moments.” When Timeline was first created, it blew up my newsfeed as dramatically as Bieber’s acceptance to Cornell and the snowstorm earlier this week. Everyone hated it, but has, slowly but surely, acclimated to the new (and confusing) layout — and given in. I have not, but I recently logged onto my profile to find that I would, by April 26th, be forced to have Timeline, whether I liked it or not. Now, I am not an irrational person, I understand that the layout of my Facebook profile is not Earth shattering, however, I have to make a very big decision tomorrow: I have to choose a cover photo. Again, for those of you who are unfamiliar with what is now a global language, a cover photo is a huge picture displayed on your “Timeline” that, like the rest of your Facebook profile (and all social networking forms, for that matter), arguably says something about you to whomever is viewing it. What do I want my Facebook friends to think of me and, what’s your cover photo saying about you? As the big day approaches, I’ve spent some time on Facebook browsing friends’ cover photos. Here are some common patterns I’ve found:

1.The Squatting Group of Girls at a Party Pic:Perhaps this one was taken on Instagram (which, by the way, is now Facebook as well) or even better, at a themed mixer. This photo says you like your friends, you like to have fun and you like to look pretty — no harm done. Just make sure there are no red cups — strangers can see your cover photo and potential-employers or, even worse, your mother, would hate to see what you actually do at your Ivy League university. 2. The Landscape:Usually a beach, maybe a mountain, perhaps even the clock tower or view from the Arts Quad if you go to Cornell, the landscape cover photo says, “I like nature, I found this photo of it and I couldn’t think of anything else to represent me.” Based on my unofficial study I’d argue this is the least controversial move when choosing a Cover Photo. Also, if you’re studying abroad, it appears to be obligatory that you make your photo a landscape of your chosen city, so snap away, friends! 3. The Faded Solo Shot in Ray-Bans and a headband:You’re a hipster. If you’re not looking at the camera, extra points. If it was taken at a music festival, you win. 4. The Baby Picture:You couldn’t use a current picture of yourself (seems narcissistic maybe?) but also didn’t think a landscape would do you justice. A goofy baby picture proves you’re weird and willing to laugh at yourself, and maybe only a little obsessed with how cute you once were.5. The “Real” You:You, and perhaps with the same friends as mentioned above, being weird, drunk, asleep on the couch or all of the above. This is a gutsy move (especially because everyone can see it) and shows that you’re funny — and you know it.

Of course my ethnographic research and analysis is entirely skewed, but Facebook describes its Cover Photo as an “image that describes you best.” Undoubtedly, that’s a tough choice to make. I like my friends, I like nature, I think I was pretty cute as a baby and yes, I’ll admit it, I have a few pictures taken on a disposable camera of me in sunglasses. I don’t want anyone — mothers, employers or even good friends — assuming anything based on the image I choose to “describe me.” While not everyone (and I hope no one) actually believes the above categorizations, the way we present ourselves on Facebook and other social networking sites, by definition, invites others to make judgments. Whether it is productive, helpful or even conscious is an entirely different conversation. I, for one, have to go find that picture of myself as an infant with my friends in costumes on a picturesque beach.

Hannah Deixler is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at [email protected] Shades of Grey appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

Original Author: Hannah Deixler