Day 13 Photo shopped: blowing the whistle on myself
When I first joined Facebook I put up some photos of me; I think I chose three or four taken either that year or from the year before. I chose carefully but they were as contemporary as I could find. But the longer I stayed on Facebook, the younger my photos became. This was due partly, I think, to realising that Facebook was a handy repository for all the old shots I loved and it was also a great way to share the parts of my life I was proud of; when I was a teenage punk; a wayward student or lead singer of a band. How great too that I could show off a younger, thinner me who was doing something infinitely cooler than raising kids and living in suburbia.
However, having a load of great pictures of yourself up on Facebook is not without its downside. Publicly the responses to these photos were positive, but privately a can of worms was spilling out and wriggling all over me. Some people who were there back in the day told me things that they’d never expressed at the time, sometimes touching but a little disturbing. I also had an exchange with someone about some photobooth shots of me as a 17 year-old wannabe punk that unsettled me. They admired the photos and pondered on whether that teenage girl would have noticed the teenage him; all well and good. But it was my reaction that disturbed me. As the conversation continued I found myself becoming jealous, of me, because the attention that I was getting wasn’t directed at me now, it was me then. And the more I thought about this the more reluctant I became to show myself as I really am.
This image that I had so carefully curated on Facebook, the perfect vanity project, started to fuel my behaviour. As I remembered the person I was before I signed up to respectability and parenthood, I longed to be back in my band, back at gigs, behaving badly. I used to stare at the 17 year-old me, the 23 year-old me and the 30-something me and loathe the 48 year-old me. Perhaps the timing was just right and it coincided with a mid-life crisis, maybe Facebook even precipitated it, but the fact remains that all of us are mastering our own little Facebook films and casting ourselves in the starring role. In these social network movies we script every line, edit every move, choose every photo. We direct our friends as supporting actors and enlist those we know less well to act as extras with tags, and likes. We never have to fluff our lines. We are invincible.
I miss the Juliet that was on Facebook, she was funny and sarcastic and thin and pretty and young. But she wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination all that I am. By way of atonement, but only having chosen the best of a bad bunch, I offer you me, now, in the cold light of day. It’s just a glimpse but I am not quite ready yet for my close up Mr De Mille.