Opinion: Don’t Tell Me to Smile

When taking a picture of yourself or someone else there’s a moment, ever slight it maybe but society has taught you to smile and click. Since smiling is often viewed as an expression of happiness, joy, and even openness, it’s been valued highly as a positive expression to make when taking a photograph. Some job sites, dating apps, and even online media sites encourage users to post profile pictures where a person is clearly seen smiling. While other expressions could be taken as serious, overwhelmed, or confused. As any person has, I’ve taken selfies, full-body pictures, and probably pictures that are less flattering than I would like them to be. However, sometimes, I don’t feel like smiling and saying cheese. Not every day is a walk in the park where the birds sing, and the sun shines. Sometimes you just want to be yourself, and that might include smiling less than usual. 

One day, I was feeling adventurous, and I uploaded my pictures onto a dating app (as one does in today’s society), but I was astonished at the feedback I received. “Woah why so serious?” one person remarked. Another added, “You should smile more. You would get more likes.” A guy even messaged me only to say that I should smile more in the pictures I take so I would look more ladylike. But why should I and anyone for that matter feel compelled to smile at all? Smiling is only an expression of enjoyment, delight, and perhaps candor. It doesn’t mean you are cheerful or you’re in a state of glee. It only alludes to the fact that you can have those qualities. But if you showcase yourself free of those expressions and instead smirk into the camera or simply stare the judgment given to you is that of a negative response. 

As the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” A photo is just that a picture of a time that was happy made to look happy, or taken to just be taken. Saying phrases like “smile more” or “you should smile” only bring an element of inauthenticity to the scene. If a person wants to smile, he or she will do so. Being aware of the comments you make and their effect on someone else can greatly broaden a person’s perspective. Unlike what society tells you not everyone feels the need to smile a big grin in a photograph whether it’s for reasons of insecurities, nervousness, or other intentions, and that’s okay. It’s okay to be yourself and showcase your face in any frame from smiling happily to bored and lonely.   

Next time you’re going to take a picture don’t try to force a smile instead let your expressions happen naturally!

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