hisham hm

Speaking of aging

“How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June… If it were only the other way!” — Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

A while ago I realized that, as we live more and more of our lives online, many of us have turned into a sort of reverse Dorian Gray.

We create accounts in service after service, uploading our avatar images. Some of them are periodically updated for various reasons (Facebook in particular), but many of them stay unchanged for years. When was the last time you changed your GMail avatar?

As it happens, our online self keeps that perennial smile, that youthful face that’s sometimes years old by now, while our physical self, the one that’s locked in a room, sitting on a computer as the online self strolls around in cyberspace, ages day by day.

I have friends here on Facebook whose avatars I’ve known for years. Professors are known for having outdated pictures in their websites, with black hair that has long turned gray.

I met a guy at a conference who I expected to be a youthful long-haired dude in his 20s, and was a short-haired man in his late 30s. When I said “oh, you have short hair now!” he smiled, a bit confused, and then remembered his own picture. What is striking is that I should have known, since I knew that picture for over ten years myself, back when I was a dude in my 20s.

As for me, I have one nice pic of myself that I uploaded as an avatar in many services (Twitter, Github, etc) that I’m just too lazy to switch. I like the picture and I actually used it once as a reference at the barbershop when getting a haircut (was I trying to chase my “Dorian’s picture”?). Still, when switching back from my child picture here on Facebook back to my “current” picture, the thought that my usual profile picture is actually from 2011 came to mind. Hence, this picture.


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