Does Facebook Cause Vanity? A Memoir Dilemma

One of my Facebook friends, Karin Larson Krisetya, a former Goshen College student now a graduate student and young mother living in Indonesia, recently noted wryly that she had search through 63 photos before finding one good enough for her profile. She wonders if Facebook causes vanity.

Here’s her explanation to her friends about trying 63 photos:  “Yes–i’m not kidding you. 63. Partly it was technical issues–face half out of the frame. Partly it was vanity–does my jaw really look that sharp…and are those lines on my face? Out of 63 this was the best, and I’m not thrilled with it to be honest with you. I think I was looking for a picture that captured how beautiful I FEEL. I feel beautiful every day. It’s just a shock when you look at a photo of yourself and realize that the physical beauty doesn’t necessarily match up with how I feel inside!”

She continues, “I never equated the way I feel about my physical look with getting older. But I suppose that is part of why I don’t look the way I feel. I actually don’t fear getting older at all–I look forward to it (at this stage at least!) It’s just so strange that a picture can’t capture how we feel, you know? FB needs to get on that, don’t you think? Create some new program that will allow us to communicate in a photographic way how we actually feel about ourselves…maybe I should copyright that idea :)”

Karin is a beautiful young woman who has identified an ancient dilemma–the visual equivalent of the problem that even the most beautiful words cannot fully express the ineffable.

Great artists have tried all kinds of ways to overcome the same problem.  Rembrandt depicted himself 63-90 times, depending on which source you believe.  Van Gogh also strove numerous times to put his inner life into paint, including several self portraits with a bandaged ear.

Karin’s question led me to think about the role of photography, especially photography online, in the age of memoir. Everyone has a digital camera or two these days. Samsung just brought out a new camera-phone called–The Memoir! Can you believe it?

Below is a YouTube about The Memoir.  As you check it out, I challenge you to answer Karin’s question:

Is the desire to represent our inner lives in external ways vanity?  If it is not vain in the sense of pride, is it vain in the sense of useless?

Why are so many of us trying to tell, sing, chant, capture, paint, record, document, dance our inner and outer lives today?

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About Shirley Hershey Showalter

Author of memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. Blogging about Magical Memoir Moments and Jubilación -- vocation in the second half of life.
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7 Responses to Does Facebook Cause Vanity? A Memoir Dilemma

  1. Gutsy Writer says:

    I enjoyed this post especially as I read an article earlier today about a similar topic. Perhaps if it's OK with you, I can link my next blog post on “self-love,” with yours. I noticed, you're blogging about other topics than memoirs you've read. very interesting. Why is it called the memoir camera? It's simply a camera with added features. Wish it could write mini-memoir stories for my blog too.

  2. Shirley says:

    I'd love to have a link inside your blog post, Sonia. Thanks! My categories evolved from book reviews, to “memoir in the news” during the campaign, to personal reflections during my Christmas vacation. I enjoy mixing up these kinds of posts, using categories and tags to organize them, and exploring different kinds of ideas and approaches in each.The Samsung Memoir is just a name. Proof that this is the “Age of Memoir” as William Zinsser named our time in 1989. The combo of Flickr and Facebook does lead us to connect technology, photography, and personal life stories in new and exciting ways. However, no one can do the inner work for us. Not FB (as Kristen asked for above) nor Samsung (as you would like) but only ourselves can do the thinking, feeling, reflecting.Write on!

  3. Betty says:

    Thank you for visiting my blog! I´m honored to have such an educated person be interested in simple blog. I find it fascinating how “we Mennonites” find each other and it gives us a common bond. I agree with your writing about facebook, but think the reverse is also true, that people are not “vain” enough. They put up pictures or go on with conversations that would not happen in “real life”. They have so many friends who are just acquaintances, just so that their “friends” number will be higher than the next persons.I try to accept only those people with which I want to stay in contact with, or who I know want to be informed about us.Looking forward to following your blog also!

  4. shirleyhs says:

    Hi, Betty. Since I have a number of Mennonite readers, I am going to put your URL here so they, too, can come visit you. You are the only Paraguayan I have met, to my knowledge. Not to mention the only Mennonite Paraguayan. I found the Q and A answers absolutely fascinating. I might try asking my readers to ask me questions, too, but I may not get many responses. I don't have the long list of followers and commenters that you have. To my other readers, check out http://bettywiens.blogspot.com

  5. diane83 says:

    Hi, I know I come to this a little late, but, what if the effort 'to represent our inner lives in external ways' is not vanity but a desire to show inner selves and connect with other's inner selves? And what if it isn't “vain in the sense of useless?” but perhaps impossible to do? Vanity aside. People want to connect, to feel close, to share in safety. That's one of the reasons why my photo doesn't do what I want: express how I feel about myself.

  6. shirleyhs says:

    Hi, Diane, your photo, especially in the thumbnail, is very mysterious. I hope you will come back and show more of yourself here.I agree completely with you, and I think Karin was trying to express a similar thought. Much of the complaint about Facebook and other forms of personal representation in words and pictures focuses on the display. Karin, and you, and I want to get beyond the display to real connection. Above all, I want to learn more about my true self. How about you?

  7. shirleyhs says:

    Hi, Diane, your photo, especially in the thumbnail, is very mysterious. I hope you will come back and show more of yourself here.I agree completely with you, and I think Karin was trying to express a similar thought. Much of the complaint about Facebook and other forms of personal representation in words and pictures focuses on the display. Karin, and you, and I want to get beyond the display to real connection. Above all, I want to learn more about my true self. How about you?

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