Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jim Carrey Resting Face: A Word On Selfies and My Choice on SelfRepresentation #digitalthumbprints

A few months ago, I followed a few stories on morning news about "Bitchy Resting Face" - the phenomenon of some women who, while calm and relaxed, have a scowling demeanor that is interpreted as being harsher than their true personalities truly are.

Tapping into 21st Century literacies, I've become fascinated with the idea of the 'selfie' and have read research that such work establishes confidence in people as they angle the camera to catch their best look.

Here's where the trouble lies. I do selfies, too, and I get scolded. Numerous individuals - family and friends - get on me for not posing normally and showing everyone my real look. "You always do duck lips." "Why do you show that crooked face all the time?" "Can't you let people see a normal picture of you?"

There's a back story. I inherited the quality of not being very photogenic. Yet, I've also been accused of being Jim Carrey from time to time. At first, before I knew who he was, I disregarded it. Then, when I began seeing him rise to fame and caught up on his popularity, I thought, "Spooky." Of course, this was pre-cyberspace and the invention of the selfie. That is why I'm ready to admit I suffer from Jim Carrey Resting Face.

Some of this is natural. Part of it is insecurity. A portion, too, is wit.

Yet, when sitting in traffic, I make faces in my rearview mirror. Also, when cameras come out, I distort my face before the camera can distort it for me. I enjoy the comedy.

Then, yesterday, teachers did a demonstration on being cautious of the digital 'thumbprint' that is left behind - a wonderful workshop on teaching students to be intentional with how they use social media. I know this may seem strange, but I AM being intentional with social media in the way I play with it. Although I think postmodernism is an ivory tower privilege of thinking about the world, I have always enjoyed the clever ways of seeing one's persona through mixing and remixing images that are available to us. Identities are fluid, complex, and hilarious. We are more than the way others perceive us, and who cares? Have fun. I truly am most comfortable in photos when I make fun of myself (and their intentions) within them. Alice and I used to deliberately take off-the-wall photos for yearbooks. Why? We could control the embarrassment before the camera controlled it for us.

Case in point: 2011 Faculty Photo shoot. The poor woman took over 100 photos. When the proofs came back, the Dean at the time kept saying, "But these don't look like you. The head looks enormous. I think you should take them again." Sadly, I was trying to take a professional shot. "Your smile is crooked and your eyes are squinted."

Personally, the duck-face, crooked-face, silly Zoolander-Crandall is the guy I want to be remembered as. A stoic, heroic, and stagnant photo of me smiling like I'm supposed to simply makes me cringe. I hate it. I don't recognize that person - too still and serious.

I'll keep practicing, though, and try to find myself posing for a photo that is more conventional.

42 years and trying...but doubt it'll ever change. I'm okay with the mug just the way it is.

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