Slate's Brian Braiker was horrified when a high school acquaintance uploaded and tagged an unflattering old picture of him on Facebook. Given this blast from my own past, I suppose I should feel his pain.
The thing is, I don't. In fact, I laughed my ass off when my friend Lori tagged this gem of a photograph, taken on my 14th birthday in the midst of the long process of growing out my eighties bangs. Braiker didn't quite feel the same way.
So when I received an e-mail alert that Caroline had tagged me in a photo, I was horrified. Rightfully so. The picture she posted is terrible. It's homecoming 1991, though it could easily be mistaken for the parking lot at a Phish concert. I appear to be dancing or jumping; my unwashed mane is flying all over the place; I look like a hobo who has spent the night in a patchouli patch. My first impulse was to detag the photo. I mean, how dare she? Who goes through the trouble of unearthing mortifying 18-year-old snapshots, scanning them, and then putting them in a public space?
Um, actually, I do. I got hit with this particular spectacular tagging because, since I was putting my old photos in long-term storage, I decided to scan some of them and share by tagging my old friends from high school. The horror of that touched off a Facebook skirmish of unflattering photographic uploads and taggings, in a round-robin of increasing hilarity and online conversations with old friends I haven't spoken to since graduation — and it resulted in a net gain of about 8 friends as my friends tagged people we knew in common that I didn't realize were on Facebook. It was kind of awesome.
Of course, I feel about my dweeby high school self (and my current geeky adult self) somewhat differently than Braiker, too.
I went through a bit of a hippie phase in high school: long greasy hair, Dead shows. I was a few pounds heavier then and hadn't yet blossomed into the well-groomed specimen of smoldering manhood who is typing this today.
I think the old pictures of me on Facebook at this point run the gamut from my vaguely preppy big hair days to my all-black phase, through the Blossom hat stage and well into the hippie experiment — the goth pictures of me have, luckily, yet to be unearthed. And I can't say that I care — if someone isn't going to be friends or date me because, in 1991, I had enormous hair and high-waisted, pleated, acid-washed jeans that I pegged at the ankles, I think I'm better off hanging with people who live in reality. Although Braiker's tongue is firmly planted in his cheek above, he does admit he was mostly scared that his new friends would be seeing pictures of his old self.
Once you start reconnecting with people from your distant past, even if fleetingly online, your life goes from feeling like a patchwork of acquaintances and experiences to something more fluid and cohesive. This can be humbling. Or, as Caroline said when I whined to her about posting that photo: "You can never be too cool for your past."
I think I, like a lot of people, was kind of excited to go to college because I could make a fresh start from being the brainy, obnoxious, awkward girl I'd been from K-12 in a small town. Thing is, I'm still sort of brainy and awkward and obnoxious — that bitch totally followed me up and down the East Coast. My hair might not look like this, and I might have sort of finally grown into my nose and out of pink plaid shirts, but I don't have to deny her existence to be comfortable with the version of her that I am now.
Tag, You're It! [Slate]
[Photo courtesy of my friend Lori]