On the Art of Posing | Teen Ink

On the Art of Posing

January 10, 2020
By matatavarti BRONZE, Los Altos, California
matatavarti BRONZE, Los Altos, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The sun beats down on you especially hard on this October afternoon. Everything seems overexposed and washed out: the sky is white, and the blinding light forces you to squint. Sore-faced and sweaty, you are surrounded by a swarm of kids dressed in head-to-toe white, blue, silver, or gold, scattered over the fake grass quads. They wear sparkling shirts and metallic skirts, big sunglasses and ties wrapped around their heads, paint and glitter on their faces. Why, you ask? Well, my friend, today is the great and famous Color War Wednesday, the single most anticipated day of the school year where the grades face off in the ultimate battle of Who Is the Most Colorfully Dressed. (And also dodgeball.) 

So what are these kids doing?

All around you, groups of three or four stand in front of a single person holding an iPhone, who squats and tilts the phone in order to get the right angle as the groups pose with their arms around each other, laughing and grinning and sticking their tongues out and pointing and aiming peace signs at the camera as if to say to whoever might be watching, I NOW GRANT YOU THE TREMENDOUS OPPORTUNITY OF SEEING ME WITH GLITTER ON MY FACE! They cry, “I look like a rat!” and “Let me move to the other side! This is my bad angle!” even though they bear only a vague resemblance to a small rodent and, believe it or not, they look the exact same from the left and the right. And after approximately three hundred and twenty-seven clicks, the photographers stand up, satisfied, and show the pictures to the groups, who shed their smiles like a second skin to scroll through and complain about how their hair looks like a triangle or their legs are bent at a sixty-seven degree angle and not a seventy-two degree angle because they only look good when their legs are bent at a seventy-two degree angle. So obviously they have to take more pictures, more and more, as many as possible with as many different people as possible before they have to go to class. Because they have to make sure they can find at least a few postable (i.e. With the right people, wearing the right smile, that one pesky eyebrow hair perfectly in place. The stars have aligned!) needles in the haystack that is their camera roll, or else the whole lunch period will have been for nothing.

Later, you’re scrolling through Instagram. Time has crept by, but you can’t seem to escape the posing kids. They appear everywhere, only now in the form of pictures that everyone managed to put up within hours that feature suspiciously blue skies and sparkling white teeth, hair that does not look like a triangle and seventy-two-degree angles that have finally been achieved. Hundreds of doting comments flow in, which are usually responded to with a nonchalant “like” to say yeah, I did see your comment but no, I will not respond to you because there are just way too many and you are not that important to me! So even though you feel kind of really terrible about yourself because wow, everyone else’s lives are great and yours is stupid and boring, you like and like and like and comment fluffy things that you really don’t mean an ounce of. This doesn’t make you feel less terrible, but at least now people know that you were a part of someone’s amazing journey in metallic pants and you aren’t just some random kid with no friends. 

Ah, Instagram. It’s one of the great American tragedies, right up there next to eboys, scene bangs, the Twilight film series, and that choker from Forever 21 that looked like a neck brace. It’s an easy ticket to validation: you post something, and if you get some unspoken number of likes, it means that you are a relevant, valuable individual. You mean something. You deserve praise. You had a great day, and you must now share it with everyone so they can marvel at your effortless magnificence.

But did you really have a great day? Did you post a picture to remember the day, or did you have that “amazing day” just so you could post a picture?

And I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I don’t do it too. Yes, I too commit the crimes of commenting sugary sweet things on the photos of people that I’m not really friends with, stalking people’s latest posts from the school dance two days ago and feeling awful about my ugly dress, stressing out about how my nose looks in that one picture someone posted of me yesterday. And yes, the likes I get on a picture of my own can make me feel like the most important, perfect person in the world. I feel validated, accepted, valuable. Instagram and other platforms like it are like a mood board: they are the filtered flashes of moments that just happen to appear in your life that remind you of what you wish you it was like. So when you get all those likes and comments on that post you spent twenty minutes editing that projects what you want others to see in you, it makes that vision feel a little closer to reality. The problem is that even if people do this themselves, they can’t seem to realize that that’s the reality of it. They don’t realize that other people are doing the same thing.

On that note, so much of everyday life is now centered around taking pictures and posting things. Exceptionally peppery slice of avocado toast? Posted. Cute outfit today? Bam! Onto the story. And I get it. We all want to look good, and we all want to feel like we are special. Picture culture has created opportunities for people to express themselves and become instant, do-it-yourself celebrities, but it has also created a generation of posers: people who “do it for the gram,” who go places and do things just to look good online, instead of going places and doing things because it actually makes them happy inside… which is when they're having so much fun or they’re laughing so hard that the last thing they could ever care about is what other people are thinking. Or maybe it means something else. I don’t really know. I just know it’s not measured by how many likes one gets, and you certainly aren't doing yourself any favors by making it look like you're having a great time and sticking your tongue out.

So what’s it all for? Why can’t we be secure enough with ourselves to be okay with having had a great time at that concert and not needing to wait for two hundred comments to flow in and confirm that fact?

On that hot October day, nobody was just sitting around and talking and enjoying the moment. Does standing around and posing for three hundred and twenty-seven pictures, only three of which you look good in, make you feel happy? Does it really mean anything? Let’s just pause for a minute! Because in twenty years, I really don’t think we will remember how un-triangular we managed to get our hair to look that day. The moments we had sitting around and talking and laughing and not-caring: those are the moments I think -- I hope -- we’ll remember.

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