When I was in the 8th grade, I went on a class trip. One evening, some of the boys were bored and decided to cause some trouble: they stole some of the girls’ bathing suits that were hanging to dry and decided to dress themselves in them and run through the camp. It was hilarious! They posed for a few photographs and that was it. Then…the yearbook came out and one of the photos taken that night had been included. The boys were upset. I’ll never forget a teacher telling them: “Always be careful when you pose for pictures – you never know where they will end up!”
Photo sharing is one of the most popular uses for Facebook and social media. However, we cannot always control which photos people choose to put up or even choose to take of us. I’m sure everyone can relate to this: I cringe when I receive notification that certain friends have posted photos because they are known for indiscriminately posting terrible pictures. Sometimes, they don’t even ask you if you would like to be in a photograph! Some people’s response to this issue is to simply “untag” the photos, but this, to me is not a solution: the photo is still in someone else’s album and others can find it. Untagging simply causes me to lose track of the pictures that exist of me online. And while the option to approve tags is great, it still won’t stop the photo from being posted.
The following points are some of the things that I take into consideration, out of courtesy to my friends, when I decide to post photos on Facebook:
1. Not every photograph I take is a masterpiece. Sometimes I happen to take boring photographs – I will be the first to admit this. Some people think that if they took 47 pictures at an event, that every one of them deserves to be posted, no matter what. This is not true – taking a few minutes to screen the photographs is worth everyone’s time.
2. If you know someone is looking for a job or applying to schools, think twice before posting pictures of them. Even though your friends may not be party animals in real life, you should always be wary of putting up pictures in which the booze to people ratio is very obviously more than 3:1. If you aren’t careful, you may lose your drinking buddy to the abyss of unemployment.
3. There are multiple people in the photograph and at least one of them looks drugged. Whenever I see a photo in which everyone looks normal except for that one person (usually untagged) who is making a strange face or has one or both eyes closed, it makes me sad – I’m sure that if they untagged the photo, they probably wish it hadn’t been posted in the first place. Also, why would you put up a picture that makes it look as though you had to drug someone so they’d be willing to be seen in a photo with you?
4. The picture has no subject. The photo has multiple people in it: not a single one of them is looking at the camera, one is bending over with their behind in the air tying their shoe, there is a rogue animal (perhaps a household pet, or a rodent, or both), there is nothing going on in the middle of the photograph, and there is a bag of trash in the corner. What is this photo of? What is the point?
5. People are visibly sweating profusely (pit stains, etc). Unless this is a sports event or a music video, one should be very careful about posting pictures of their pals schvitzing their faces off.
6. There are undergarments showing (unintentionally). Accidental wardrobe malfunctions happen to everyone, but I can’t think of a single person I know who would be happy if there were pictures of said malfunctions posted for the public.
7. The photo is of your dinner and it’s blurry. Everyone knows you dine at nice restaurants but if you’re going to gloat about that filet mignon you had last week, at least make sure the photo is clear. If I wanted to see food that looked as though it may have been partially regurgitated, I would open up a can of wet cat food and take a picture. And don’t have an extensive photo shoot with your dinner if you can avoid it.
Discerning between good and bad photos shouldn’t be a tough concept, but it seems as though it is much easier now than it ever was to be caught in a bad photograph or sucked into an album of duds. It used to be that photos weren’t so easily immortalized and shared with as large a number of people as they are now, but digital photography has made it cheaper and easier to take and have photographs of anything and everything. This accessibility is great in so many ways, but it doesn’t come without its pitfalls.
It’s feels almost absurd to think that not only famous people need to be careful about the photos that exist of them, but that everyday people need to exercise more caution as far as what photos they are willing to be in, even when there should be nothing to hide. Strangely enough, we are all just as easily one viral photo away from internet infamy. We may be in a photo, but we may not be able to control anything about what happens to it afterward.
What do you think of online photo sharing? Do you think people should be more cautious about taking and posting photographs? Are there guidelines that you have for yourself when posting photographs of other people?