You are not your profile picture

Two years ago when I was inducted into the surreal new world of dating that was Tinder (yeah, judge me all you want!), I realised how arduous the task of crafting your own self image was. You upload a couple of photos. Write a description. Rewrite the description. Try to create this augmented version of yourself. And then when I started using the app, I was pleasantly surprised to be bombarded with almost 80-100 profiles of women around me.

After a brief thumb warmup session I commenced the search for ‘the chosen one/s’. For the first 15 profiles I was enthusiastic enough to read up their description, pausing time after time stroking both my chins in deep judgement. After going through a lot of “I’m on tinder just coz curiosity”, “Wanderlust. YOLO! Not 2 hookup plz boyz” and “Here to check the UI”, I realised that due to a lifelong habit of over analysis my efficiency was taking a major hit and my powers of quick judgement were only getting slower. Hence…

Teff = Ldesc/Patt + tswipe

Teff – Efficient Time
Ldesc – Length of the description,  (non-zero)
Patt – Attractiveness of the photo, 0<Patt<11
tswipe – Time between 0 and judgement/swipe

Now that I’ve got the most pointless formula in place, I realised that if I minimise the time spent on the description to almost zero and brought down my my tswipe to something lower I might effectively go through all the profiles in the least time possible.

To translate that from Nerd to Douche, I swiped right based on how hot they were.

And so in this process I realised how I was completely omitting any consideration of their personality by completely making their picture the totality of their being. Which initially made me feel a tad disgusted, but then instantly got desensitised by rut of swiping. A couple of days later I realised I wasn’t getting any matches. On which I investigated the reason to be my verbose profile description and my thoroughly banal picture. Which further led me digging out research on tips for how to get the best profile picture, including the not looking into the camera tip and being asymmetric.

Asymmetric. Check. Not facing the camera. Double check.

My first reaction to the shitload of articles that popped up was my finger pointing at the screen with a “Phhbt! Yeah…sure!”. The next moment I go on Facebook to realise how wrong I was. Now my rants on and about social media aren’t quite rare so to speak. But through the years a lot of this ‘self as a brand’ culture has been redesigned to become increasingly subtle even in it’s ubiquity.

A lot of us, including me at times, have started planning a lot of activities/events in social-media-first manner. Which means if I’m going out to X place, a part of my head would be dedicated on thinking on how a ‘check-in/selfie at X’ would raise my cred online. It might seem like a blanket statement, but then all the selfies on the Facebook timeline are there to validate it.

And now that we have a multitude of apps to post, like, tweet, snap, pin and share…they start running as a background process in our heads keeping track of what content needs to be put out. Now I’m at the danger of sounding like a luddite asking the townsfolk to cover in fear from the monster that is technology. But again it might be my slight dismay to accept this new paradigm where public validation exists beyond personal satisfaction.

Although I don’t have a pretentious slam poem to express my views on how we’re being more individually driven under the guise of being social. But let me for arguments sake, present you with a simple choice on lifestyle aspirations:

The results are gonna be far from Shawking.

For the uninitiated that guy on the right is Dan Bilzerian(Who?), and on the left is a guy pretending to be Eddie Redmayne. Yes, I agree that might have been a tad extreme and also sexist(for some). But my point being the glorification of lifestyle portrayal for us does mirror the tabloid celebrity culture we’ve been exposed to since long. Since any new experience does warrant some amount of public validation and adoration our natural wiring gets moulded accordingly. In principle, it works the same way any addiction does. But then tagging the word ‘addiction‘ just makes it sound a hell of a lot more serious.

In Joshua Foer‘s  Moonwalking with Einstein, he talks about the introduction of a new system…right from the foundation of writing to the invention of the printing press always met with resistance in its initial phase. Till the technology of printing press came in to place, books weren’t as common as they are now. Hence the inception of the printing press was met with concerns regarding people’s memory going weak due to the convenience of instantly referring a book. Fast forward to the present day, the book mentions a computer scientist named Gordon Bell who has a miniature digital camera called SenseCam dangling from his neck at all times documenting everyday of his life in sound and video. Yes, he does it for science.

So maybe this constant indexing of memories in a presentable space might have some merit to it in terms of ushering an era of transparency and awareness. But we still have quite a load of digital evolution to catch up to the stage where constant online existence becomes a productive exercise. Till then the summation of our entire personality and idiosyncrasies within a 180×180 pixels image seems to be an immense stretch.

To think of it:

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to tweet about it, does it really matter?”


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