Call it the Facebook Photo Paradox: People are never as good-looking as they appear in their Facebook profile pic. But they're never as ugly as they appear in other people's Facebook pictures of them. Why do other people's Facebook photos of you suck so much?
A Facebook engineer told NPR this week that the majority of images reported as objectionable by users were not of porn or illegal drug use, but unflattering pictures of themselves posted by their own friends. Looking back on my own Facebook photos, it was easy to see why. In the pictures posted by other people I look like either a sex offender or a dwarf. Sometimes I look like a dwarven sex offender. It's almost like other people have a special filter on their cameras whose sole purpose is to make me look bad.
What makes the hideousness of other people's Facebook pictures of yourself so jarring is the contrast with the perfection of your own, painstakingly curated pictures. In the pictures I posted, I look like the hip, millionaire co-founder of a chain of smoothie restaurants where the gimmick is you can order ahead with an iPhone app.
The Facebook Photo Paradox isn't hard to explain. When you post a picture of yourself, your main concern is looking good. When you tag someone else in a photo, the point is letting them and all your friends know you were hanging out together; it's more about remembering an event or a time than self-image maintenance. If your friend happened to be so drunk his eyes were pointing different directions at the time, so be it.
Unfortunately, while tagging someone in a photo is pretty straightforward (Were they there? Did you take a picture of them? Tag.) detagging yourself from other people's photos can be a social mine-field since you're basically telling someone they're either a) a shitty photographer or b) embarrassing to be seen around. Personally, I've activated the new-ish Tag Review feature, which requires me to "opt-in" to any photo or status update my friend tags me in. Even this isn't a cure-all, since people may begin to think you're a control freak.
The trick to the whole thing is figuring out how to best align your own perfect self-image with the flawed version created by others. Although I guess that's the trick to all of life. Good luck!