It’s 4pm EST. Sheila Chukwulozie, ALA class of 2010, sits in an old library at Amherst college. At first glance, you would think that she is working at her computer, writing a paper for her Africa Folk Opera class. Eventually, however, you will notice that she is making slightly pained, hissing sounds as she attempts, in vain, to keep the laughter locked away inside her.
8pm, Honeydew, Johannesburg. Natalia [Insert Surname], class of 2012, sits at a table and stifles giggles, which come and go depending on the direction of Mr Tago’s watchful glare goes.
11pm, Notre Dame University. Geraldine Mukumbi sits in her room, laughing out loud (much to her Michiganian roommate’s dismay). Elsewhere on the same campus, Aniekeme Ukpong, class of 2011 nearly bumps into a small girl, who rushes hurriedly to her next class. His eyes are glued to his cellphone, as he flexes his humor muscles and posts well-received comments.
Over the past couple of days, “embarrassing” pictures from people’s pasts have been resurfacing. We have keeled over with laughter from all corners of the globe. Pictures that we would ordinarily be ashamed of have become a glue that has brought us together. More, they have gotten a few of us thinking deeply about how we are perceived, our self-image, what matters to us, and how that changes over time.
Today, what started off as a couple of friends looking back at how far they’ve come, and laughing at what their once admirable photo-editing skills and fashion senses have now been proven to be has ended up as a campaign that promotes a positive self-image.
The campaign hinges on a challenge that implores people all over the world to post pictures of themselves that they are the most ashamed of with the following caption:
Beyond this, it also asks for participants to fly THIS photo.
I Am Not My Profile Picture also periodically posts relatable snippets of the lives of the participants, which highlight personal traits or achievements that they are proud of, which have nothing to do with how they look. These snippets are meant to give the audience the sense that truly, we are all defined by who we are inside, more than we are by our outward appearance, nonetheless our Facebook profile picture.
The movement has barely been up for a day, and the numbers are rising fast. The question is, though, what compels people to be a part of this movement?
“I am crazy, I am loving, I can be stupid sometimes, I am grateful but I am not my profile picture.” Adja Mberry, Class of 2011, Senegalese.
“Still though. That was a Darn good Burger!” [Of a picture in which he ungracefully devours a profile picture]
Oluwasanmi Oyenuga, Class of 2011, Nigerian
“So very often, we forget to enjoy the moment and instead, obsess about taking the perfect picture (for Facebook) and getting LIKES but are you simply your Profile Picture? Enjoy the moment and take a picture. Just don’t forget to capture the emotions too.”
Rumby Hove, Class of 2010, Zimbabwean
So far, the comments range from declarations of self-love, to bold decrees to be less paranoid about how we think people perceive us, but the message is one, and it rings true.
No one is their profile picture. That is simply an image that we put out to the world that is meant to identify us. We can have fun with it if we choose, but never should we derive our sense of self-worth from what we or other people think it looks like. Let’s allow ourselves to be vulnerable, for amidst that vulnerability, we tear down at the walls around us, and we allow ourselves to truly be seen.
Hoisted up in the description section of the page, an exerpt, adapted and revised from a thoughtful blogpost by Sheila Chukwulozie which reads:
By most standards, our profile pictures are uncool.
These picture reveal our features and physical attributes in a way that carries social implications that we do not define. We will not be bothered that someone thinks our clothes make us uncool or our hair makes us look poor or our teeth make us look nerdy.
The way the world looks at me is definitely not aligned with my intention of myself and therefore, its power is not reaffirmed for I feel no feelings of subjugation to it.
This is me claiming my worth, beyond what I look like.
I AM NOT my profile picture.