Bring it to Barb


Dear Barb,
I am appalled and cannot understand how the idea of taking pictures of yourself everywhere you go is so necessary. I keep having my photo taken with friends unexpectedly when we meet up together or go somewhere and I look horrible! Isn’t it polite to ask if you mind taking a picture and posting it? I don’t always look photogenic, yet they put it on Facebook or Snapchat without asking. How can I diplomatically let them know I want to screen anything going on social media? Sometimes I wonder if it is purposely posted out of jealousy; they look good and you look bad thing.


Dear Appalled,

If you look good generally on a consistent basis, this isn’t a problem. But for those who like to really let their hair down and take a day off once in a while, it is infuriating to have a Kodak moment that very same day!

Social media has affected us by forcing the decision to look good in public more often than before selfies and group pictures exploded in popularity. Whether we are meeting friends, family or business associates, we fear being in a bad picture and posted for others who know us to view. We all want to be accepted and loved and this carries a lot of influence on our behavior. In your mind, ultimately being judged is what will trigger the extra effort to look good more often.

In my opinion, this has been a positive thing because we will always be complacent and do less if we can, because it’s easier. Studies show that your brain will always follow the easiest pathway from prior habit or unconscious triggers. It takes EFFORT to detour those brain pathways. The good news is that stepping up the level of effort to look presentable outside the confines of your private home will put a smile on your face because you feel better about yourself if you know you look good,

Opting out of a photo or selfie should be respected and appropriate when requested. The trick is in the approach. Looking at the person directly in the eyes and stating slowly that “you’d really rather not” will go a long way. This takes the pressure off you telling the person that you want to edit and approve every picture posted.

Many may view your attitude as superficial, but we all have different standards about our appearance as we grow old. Not being true to yourself will cause you more anxiety. Just be you in the moment; even if you skipped the lipstick or had a bad hair day, smile and be confident. Pictures on phones will not go away any time soon.

Humans are superficial; evidence is seen everywhere. There is a reason why we don’t have ugly, unkept individuals reporting the nightly news, models on the beach with rolls of belly fat posing for Sports Illustrated and short bald guys as Chippendale’s or on a commercial about Viagra.

Like it or not, judgments based on facial appearance play a powerful role in how we treat others, and how we get treated. Psychologists have long known that attractive people get better outcomes in practically all walks of life. People with “mature” faces receive more severe judicial outcomes than “baby-faced” people. And having a face that looks competent (as opposed to trustworthy or likeable) may matter a lot in whether a person gets elected to public office.

If you are always opting out of photos, maybe it’s time to evaluate how you feel about yourself. Time to look in the mirror and appraise? It’s entirely up to you how honest you are about it.

A series of experiments by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov reveal that all it takes is a 10thof a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face, and that longer exposures don’t significantly change those impressions.

With social media, you always run the risk of misguided contempt from someone who is envious and will post an unflattering picture of you. Real friends will never post bad pictures of their friends! I always say about most things: “Twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern.” A third bad picture and it is time to unfriend them.

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at


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