Irvina is deleting her Facebook + Instagram pictures – LIKE?
“To God, be humble.
To your family, loving.
To your friends, forgiving.
To your community, serviceable.
To thine own self, be true.”
It all started with these pictures:
I was doing some research for Rewrite Beautiful’s upcoming Street Art Workshops titled, “Mirrored.” My original idea was to explore our view of our own reflection and see if we can change how we perceive it. I searched, “Mirror” into Instagram. I was expecting to find pictures of …I don’t know… actual mirrors, as in framed pieces of reflective glass. Instead, I found thousands of pictures of girls and guys taking pictures in front of mirrors with their phones. My mouth dropped and my heart followed. What shocked me was that none of these people were doing anything exceptional in these pictures. They were simply snapping a picture of their reflection for the sake of having a picture of themselves. But, then they took it to the next level: they posted the picture onto Instagram for people to see and inevitably “Like” and “Comment” on. Something about this made my stomach hurt. I then asked myself, Does posting pictures of ourselves online encourage us to be better humans or simply better “looking” humans?
Eventually this thought demanded that I look at myself and see where I personally am participating in this need for physical affirmation and how that might be effecting my day to day perception of myself and others.
I analyzed a few of my Facebook pictures and found this:
In early July 2012, I posted this picture of my mother and I from a family wedding.
Likes – 23, Comments – 7. Five people used the word “beautiful”.
However, a few weeks prior, Rewrite Beautiful tagged me in a picture where I was helping host a Rewrite Beautiful Birthday Party.
Likes – 2, Comments – Zero.
All of my “Friends” saw the same two pictures, but had dramatically different responses. To you this may be no big deal. Yes, there could be multiple variables, such as date and time for the “Likes” and “Comments” being so different. However, if you’ve used Facebook for more than a month you know that pictures of women in tight dresses tend to get a lot more “Likes” and “Comments” than the average picture. To me this is a VERY big deal because it says something I don’t “Like.” It says to me that my “friends” on Facebook and Instagram pay more attention and praise to my looks than my actions. I’m not cool with this. Rewrite Beautiful believes beauty IS an ACTION. In the second picture I am helping a little girl see what individual talents and gifts she has that make her beautiful as a human being. Why does a picture of my mom and I enjoying a wedding get more praise and attention than volunteering my time?
As the Founder of Rewrite Beautiful, I have to be more careful than most on the way I portray myself. Our mission at Rewrite Beautiful is to change how we see beauty into ACTIONS of creativity, kindness, and strength. I’m not sure if a picture of me in a sexy dress or posing with my friends at a birthday party for my Facebook and Instagram “friends” to see is creative, kind, or strong. Thus, I am going to experiment with taking all of the personal pictures of myself off of my personal Facebook and Instagram accounts for one year. The hard thing is this might be detrimental to my career as a writer.
Currently, I am writing a book. It’s called HOW TO: Rewrite Beautiful. It’s a series of essays, the book talks about my days of being a hot mess and a guide for exploring creativity in unexpected ways, why you can’t be kind to anyone unless you are first and foremost kind to yourself, and how to cultivate your own inner strength. I have been advised by marketing professionals to share more of my personal day-to-day life with people on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Their theory is, if you connect with me as a person, you’ll more likely purchase my book. Thus, over the past couple months I have been posting more pictures of myself in my personal life than I usually would. The difficult thing about this is I am writing a book on how to be an authentic human, yet I feel that these pictures do not have my usual good authentic motives. The truth is, I wouldn’t be posting a lot of these updates and pictures unless I wanted you to buy my book. These are my motives, what are yours? Do you post pictures for affirmation? To prove you’re keeping up with the Joneses? To cultivate an image of your life for others?
I studied photo journalism in college. I was taught by my professors to look for the angle that triggers the most emotion and will inevitably tell the best story. The problem with photography is the picture is not the story, the article in the paper is. I often feel that my pictures on Facebook and Instagram are telling a story that pulls people in, but they may not be getting the whole story on who I am and what I stand for. I recently discussed this concept with a friend (actually we were texting, but I guess today we could call this a discussion.) We were joking about Googling ourselves. This is a new friend and I told him not to Google me because I think the summary of what Google has documented on me isn’t exactly the whole picture of who I am. If you Google my name you’ll find my resume, articles about me starting a non-profit, receiving awards and also hear testimonials from other people saying how great of a woman I am. This is all true (thank you very much). However, this is not the whole story of Irvina. The thing is, when you Google me you won’t see the depths of the pain I experienced that fueled me to start a non-profit to prevent eating disorders. You won’t see the number of times I cried to my mentors saying I wasn’t fit to run a company. You also won’t see me falling short of being a good woman and how those experiences led me to finding the woman I am proud to be today. The saying goes, “A picture can say 1000 words.” But, the truth is, not every word a picture says is necessarily true. The truth is my pictures often times don’t tell you what a hot mess I have been and I think that’s a very important part of the story of me. Likewise I think YOUR story is important. I want to know the whole story of YOU, but I have found that sometimes the images get in the way of knowing the real you.
My dearest friends will tell you that I can be uberly sensitive (Source: Jessica) and dramatic (Source: Jeannette) My friends are good, honest people and they do not lie. Yes, I am uberly sensitive and dramatic. However, the world needs some sensitive and dramatic people to shake things up. My first and foremost goal as a human is for people to know me for my actions, not my looks, my friends, my family, my house, my travel or my money. So, the plan is for the next year I’m going to conduct an experiment. Starting September 1st 2012 I am going to delete all my former pictures of myself including my face and body from Facebook and Instagram. I’ll still post pictures of art, snap shots of experiences, and things that inspire me, but I will no longer be featuring images of my physical body. Not because there is anything shameful about my face or body, but because I want to make a serious effort to challenge people to really know me outside of who I hang out with and what I wear. I’ll be transferring my favorite photos to a private blog of mine that I, along with my close friends and family will get to enjoy anytime we want to relive the extraordinary experiences we’ve had together. All will not be lost. One year from now, September 1st 2013 I will reflect on the past year and revisit the idea of posting pictures of myself. We’ll see what I learn in the meantime.
Rewrite Beautiful will still maintain pictures of me doing Rewrite Beautiful work. However, I will not be tagged in these pictures on my own personal Facebook account. I’m comfortable with this, because the work Rewrite Beautiful does is what I believe in - people being recognized for beauty in their ACTIONS. I think this will be a powerful experience for me. Without using the tool of images of myself I will have to be creative in the ways I allow you to get to know me. I believe it is detrimental for us to pay more attention and affirmation to people’s appearance over their actions. I want to change this and if Rewrite Beautiful has taught me anything in the past 3 years it has been that if you want to change something you have to start with changing yourself.