You know that girl at the party who can’t stop taking pictures? The one who’s so obsessed with capturing every minute of the night that she doesn’t actually experience any of it? That was me. My name is Sarah, and I’m a recovering picture addict.
As a kid, I used to spend hours examining my parents’ old picture albums, piecing together an understanding of their past lives with faded snapshots. In college, I quickly became the resident photographer amongst my friends. But uploading images instantly and comparing my weekends to hundreds of others' was a slippery slope, and I grew obsessed with my social media image. I recreated and rearranged the same moments so everyone looked happier, and spent entire vacations capturing everyone else’s fun. At a certain point, I honestly believed that taking pictures was my social currency; it was what I brought to the party.
As I transitioned into post-grad life (and started attending fewer costume parties), I relaxed a little bit. It turned out that, yes, my friends still wanted to hang out with me without a camera attached to my hand, and most enjoyed the respite from my constant need to photograph them with their food. I took fewer pictures during random nights out and saved the snaps for truly special occasions that I wanted to remember.
The results were powerful: when I stopped living behind the lens, I allowed myself to actually experience my surroundings. I also observed other photo-maniacs in action, and witnessed how little fun they were having as they uploaded “candid” pictures to Instagram in the corner.
Here’s my "expert" analysis of what different types of social media images really mean about you.
1. The Humble-Brag Picture
What It Says About You: You're always the person at the hottest bar/restaurant/sporting event RIGHT NOW. You want everyone to know you're there, you're having a great time, and you've included your exact coordinates on a map in case your crush is out and interested in meeting up with you. Hypothetically, of course. Sometimes, you have FOMO just looking at your own feed.
2. The 'Look! I'm In Love!' Picture
What It Says About You: Everyone loves love, especially you. Luckily, you and your boyfriend just went out to dinner and you took this picture to show the world how happy you guys are together. (Right? Right?) Either way, this weekend, someone is going to take a picture of your smiling faces at brunch, so you'll make sure to wear your best statement necklace.
3. The Vista Picture
What It Says About You: In case anyone missed it, the sun set last night! You caught the whole thing on your amazing hike, and you had a better view of it than the rest of your newsfeed. You also added a filter and a few nature emojis that conveyed how present and in touch you are with your surroundings. You do yoga, and appreciate the present moment like woah. Namast-hey!
4. The Food Picture
What It Says About You: You're a fun foodie and you want everyone to know it. Based on all the likes you got on the Instagram of your decorated Easter eggs, people are impressed. You're the type who isn’t bogged down by calories or diets ... or you're secretly obsessed with them.
5. The #TBT Picture
What It Says About You: You were a cute, weird kid, just like Kim K! You're probably also really cute now, which is why you like to emphasize that you once had an awkward phase. You did things like wear embarrassing clothes, and this one time, you fell asleep eating in your highchair. It's really innocent when you upload adorable pictures every week for #ThrowbackThursday — you're not fishing for compliments at all!
6. The Travel Picture
What It Says About You: You tend to get easily excited by new things, rather than by daily life. Exotic animals, breathtaking monuments — you and your iPhone are living the good life. Remember, you’ll always have Paris: just hit up your friends’ junior year abroad photo albums and check yourselves out posing with baguettes in front of the Eiffel Tower.
7. The 'Candid' Group Picture
What It Says About You: You know what’s not candid? Asking the only guy at the pre-game to take a picture of 15 “laughing” girls wearing head-to-toe black. Still, you always mean well, and value sincerity. Theoretically.