Seven Deadly Selfies

By Eloise Faichney


‘And you tried to change didn’t you?

closed your mouth more

tried to be softer


less volatile, less awake

but even when sleeping you could feel

him travelling away from you in his dreams…’

– Warsan Shire


Mark is sitting across from me. His eyes are bloodshot from last night’s bender.

I spent the morning nervously getting ready, fussing over my make-up, fretting over my recent weight gain, picking the perfect dress which showed just enough cleavage, but not too much. Sick to my stomach about seeing him again for the first time in a year.

It stings to see him like this. The sore, red eyes. The unkempt hair. Yesterday’s clothes thrown back on from the floor of wherever he slept last night. It’s all a demonstration of how little he cares.

He still looks good to me, though. I hate that he still looks good to me.

We make small talk and I can barely get two gulps of my coffee down. I pray that he can’t sense the immense churning within me. Two years of this bullshit back-and-forth and I’m still not immune to him.

I still hate him.

I still love him.

‘Look,’ he says, eventually. ‘I don’t know if it means anything to you now, but there’s a reason I abruptly cut off contact last time.’

This could be the closure I have been waiting for.

‘Oh yeah?’

‘Well you know that picture you sent me? The one of you with that little cape wrapped around your shoulders?’

Yes, I knew it. When we were dating, or fucking, or whatever it was we were doing, I’d taken a cheeky selfie of myself in the bathroom mirror. It was a waist-up photograph and I was wearing a costume ‘little red riding’ hood, a bra, and a smile.

Later, when he dropped off the face of the planet for the umpteenth time, I had held my breath and shared it on instagram. It was my most liked picture yet.

‘When you posted that,’ he says, ‘I got really fucked off. I guess I was jealous.’

‘Why didn’t you say something to me?’ I ask.

He shrugs. ‘Because I had no right to be jealous. You weren’t my girlfriend.’

I am silent. He continues, unapologetic.

‘I judged you. The thing I love about you is that you’re so classy, but when you posted that, I saw you in a different light. At that point I decided not to speak to you again.’

I can only stare at him as the ripping pain grips my insides. I am flashing back to the nights I spent crying, wondering why he blocked me on social media, abjuring me so coldly. How I had tortured myself for not being better, thinner, smarter, worthy enough for him to love me.

Here was the truth; the end of our tumultuous ‘relationship’ was because of a fucking instagram picture.

‘Now, of course, I love that you did that. I think it’s great,’ he says. ‘Good on you! You know that guys who read your writing on Tumblr and follow you on Twitter will probably still be jerking off to that picture, months later. Good for you.’

We eyeball each other across the table.

His words hang in the air.

Good for you.




‘Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies? Up on a pedestal or down on your knees, it’s all a male fantasy: that you’re strong enough to take what they dish out, or else too weak to do anything about it… You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur.’

– Margaret Atwood


My face flickers before me, slide after slide. My chin is tilted downward, my eyes are looking coquettishly up at the camera. I offer an enigmatic half-smile. A hint of collarbone or cleavage. Slide after slide.

It is my selfie face. I pose that way when I am performing myself. Performing intimacy through the lens of my instagram account. It is a dance that opens doors; starts relationships; attracts unwanted attention. Makes me feel loved; beautiful; worthy; vain; stalked; harassed; shamed.

But this is not my instagram account. It’s a slideshow that John, a male co-worker, has put together to share around with the boys in the creative studio. It’s a compendium of my vanity. A demonstration of the banal repetition of my social media presence. A damning example of my need for attention. A display of my audacity in controlling my own image.

I want to storm into the studio and rip strips off him. I want to call him out for his sexism, his invasion of my privacy, and his mocking of me in my professional environment. I want to protest, but I can’t.

I posted those photographs. I must own the responsibility of what that means.

How dare I try to control my own image.




‘I am the woman of myth and bullshit.

(True. I authored some of it.)

I built my little house of ill repute.

Brick by brick. Labored,

loved and masoned it.

I live like so.

Heart as sail, ballast, rudder, bow.

Rowdy. Indulgent to excess.

My sin and success–

I think of me to gluttony.’

– Sandra Cisneros

Four photographs of me fill the frame.

In black and white, I pull my hair out of pigtailed buns, revealing messy crimps and curls; a product of the humid air. The picture was an experiment in portraiture with my new computer; an attempt to emulate the cool, sad girls of Tumblr and their pictures that get hundreds of thousands of notes. I am happy with what I make, and my friends on Tumblr like it; it was fun to try something different.

It is here that I make a fatal error. I set it as my Facebook profile picture.

Facebook is a far different audience to Tumblr. They will tolerate selfies but they don’t really ‘get’ them. Facebook doesn’t understand the selfie as portraiture, or art, or expression, or empowerment. Facebook thinks selfies are the vain tools of silly little girls trying to get boys to tell them they’re pretty.

My friends are kind. They ‘like’ it and comment ‘I love this’ etc. underneath.

‘OMG. Did you see what Tony posted on your photo?’ a text from Tanya asks. ‘Do you even talk to him that much anymore?’

I go to my page and there, in the comments, a guy I used to hang out with years ago has posted his own version of my photograph, using his long hair to emulate my movements. His shoulders tilt this way and that, his lips pouting in exaggerated femininity.

I don’t know how to take it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess?

‘Wow, this is great! Thanks, T.’ I try to laugh it off.

Weeks later, I bump into another old friend, Hanna. She still runs in the cool circle of Tony and his group.

‘That was brutal, what Tony did,” she says.

‘The photo? I thought it was funny, I guess.’

‘Oh honey, no. He was making fun of you. He posted it in the “Mean Girls” group they have on Facebook.’

‘What the hell is the “Mean Girls” group?’

‘It’s a secret page where they post photos of fat people and make memes out of people they follow who post selfies, making fun of them… it’s so bitchy. Don’t take any notice of it. Really. They think they’re cool, but they are losers.’

Stung, I unfriend the members of ‘Mean Girls’.

I don’t share artsy selfies on Facebook again.



‘A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.’

– Naomi Wolf


What if he thinks I’m fat in person?

This question has haunted all my online dating experiences. I am the master of the flattering selfie; tilting my head on the right angle, using the camera to skim my curves just right. Then there are the filters, the skin perfecting apps, the apps that allow me to tuck my waistline in just a little.

When a man ‘meets’ me online, he meets this image. The real me, the girl with the imperfect skin and messy hair and squishy rolls on her stomach—she does not appear on my instagram account.

There are countless memes about this now. The outrage men feel about being ‘tricked’ by a pretty face selfie, only to find out a woman is fuller figured. Before and after memes which make sport of the ‘illusion’ that make up provides and how it tricks and traps men. I hate that I buy into that.

I have had to unfollow many instagram accounts of female models with impossible bodies. It’s just too depressing. I sit in bed, the dark illuminated by only my screen, scrolling through perfect women with tiny waists, long, tanned limbs, and gravity-defying breasts.


Another woman’s beauty does not lessen my worth. It does not make me hideous, grotesquely fat and deformed. If a man doesn’t like me in person because of my weight, that says more about him than it does about me. I am loveable even with my stomach rolls.

But why doesn’t it feel that way sometimes?



“A slut is someone, usually a woman, who’s stepped outside of the very narrow lane that good girls are supposed to stay within. Sluts are loud. We’re messy. We don’t behave. In fact, the original definition of “slut” meant “untidy woman.” But since we live in a world that relies on women to be tidy in all ways, to be quiet and obedient and agreeable and available (but never aggressive), those of us who color outside of the lines get called sluts. And that word is meant to keep us in line.”

– Jaclyn Friedman



The message appears overnight, delivered anonymously by Tumblr’s messaging service. I don’t post responses to messages like these; it never pays to feed the trolls. It’s generally accepted that once you get a certain amount of followers on Tumblr, you get anon hate. I’ve seen people who get it, and publish it, every day.

I don’t post that many photographs on my blog, it is more of a creative space for working out ideas through poems and short pieces of prose. So why the hate?

‘Stop having sex with friends, slut.’

This next message is in reference to a piece I wrote titled ‘Sex is messy’, which referenced the complications of taking a friend as a lover. This time, I fired back.

‘This is a writing blog—not a diary—you impolite, slut-shaming fucknuckle. More to the point, it is my writing blog. I will write about whatever I wish, and in my personal life I will have sex with whomever I choose. If a woman’s independence and autonomy in her own sexuality so offends your sensibilities, please do give the unfollow button a timely spank. Best of luck, I’ll let you show yourself out.’

Probably slightly overkill, but I follow it up with a triumphant selfie and feel better about the whole thing. Fuck the haters, right?

‘You make the same face in every one of your selfies. I laugh every single time.’

I block the IP address. The anonymous messaging feature is usually used for good and I have a few friends without Tumblr accounts who use it to make contact. I’m not about to let this idiot spoil that for me.

A month or so later, I wake up to a new anonymous message.

‘It’s a shame. You’re pretty but you don’t have a top lip.’

I have no upper lip? I have many insecurities, but my lips have never been one of them. I head to the mirror to examine the offending lip.

Okay, my bottom lip is much fuller than the top one, but really it’s just that my cupid’s bow isn’t quite pouty enough. For the next few days I obsessively stalk models and actresses on instagram, noticing their beautiful, full, even lips. I am a monster.

I talk to Monika, my friend who knows a plastic surgeon. I ask her about lip fillers. Turns out, they cost $600 a pop and only last a few months. Plus, injections. Yuk.

The insults keep coming.

‘One of these days you should really buy yourself a top lip.’

I’m not responding. I don’t want them to know how badly they’ve gotten in my head. I have actually developed a new insecurity because of this person. I never used to think about my lips! Now all I see when I look in the mirror is that thin, uneven upper lip of mine. It doesn’t help that my selfie pose angles my head upward to make my lip look even smaller.

I avoid Tumblr for a long while.

‘You think you have everyone fooled but I see you for what you are. Whore.’

This latest message snaps me out of it. Somehow, I realise that this vendetta isn’t even about me. I’ve become a symbol of something to this person, and they want to tear that symbol down. My lips are fine. I am imperfect, I make mistakes, but I am fine.

I turn anon messaging off, for good.



‘How far have you walked for men who’ve never held your feet in their laps?

how often have you bartered with bone, only to sell yourself short?

why do you find the unavailable so alluring?

where did it begin? what went wrong? and who made you feel so worthless?’

– Warsan Shire


He is kissing her. No, he is licking her.

Their entwined mouths are the centrepiece of the photograph, tongues bared; glistening with spit. In the background, their limbs are wedged together like Jenga pieces, one of his arms out of sight, holding the phone to take the picture. They are lying in a bed, or a very comfy chair. She tugs at his shirt. Their eyes are closed in the ecstasy of reunion.

This is how I find out they are back together.

A week ago, Beau was waking up in my bed, his lean arm draped across his face, the way he does when he dozes on his back in the mornings. The geometric diamond tattoo on the back of his right upper arm winked at me.

I always knew I wasn’t cool enough for him.

He was a ridiculous crush; a fantasy bad boy; a mirage that tied my tongue in knots whenever I saw him. He was fucking French, for god sakes. What I mean is, I’d never really pictured myself with him. I’d imagined him pressing me up against a wall, murmuring foreign nothings into my neck, oh yes, but never sticking around long enough to cook me dinner the next night.

No, he was just a crush. He was just a fantasy, until the day we both found ourselves single. Until we decided to light a match against the spark that had existed for years.


I guess it didn’t take long for his ex to find out that he had moved on; even all the way in Germany, the gossip reached her. They’d fought constantly, he told me. Made each other desperately unhappy. They degraded each other until the point that one of them had to skip the country.

‘I won’t leave you for her,’ he promised. ‘I like what we have started; I want to see where it goes.’

I bit my tongue, I played the cool girl. I didn’t tell him what I felt for him.

Then, the silence came.

It’s funny how desperately you can want something when you can actually feel it slipping out of your fingers. I knew, I always knew, he was not for me. That I couldn’t have him. Even when I held him fleetingly in my hands, I knew I’d have to let him go.

I’ve never been one to leave claw marks; in silence, I accept what I am dealt.

The picture is seared into my memory. I see it when I close my eyes.

He is kissing her.



“Publicity in women is detestable. Anonymity runs in their blood. The desire to be veiled still possesses them. They are not even now as concerned about the health of their fame as men are, and, speaking generally, will pass a tombstone or a signpost without feeling an irresistible desire to cut their names on it.”

– Virginia Woolf


It is my favourite picture of the lot. I don’t look particularly great in it, in fact, you can see my crooked eyetooth—the one I affectionately refer to as ‘snaggle’ and hide behind a close-lipped smile when I can—poking out of my mouth as I am caught, mid-laugh, stirring a large pot of stewed fruit.

The picture was taken at a cooking class run by my Aunt Cassandra. The one woman in my large family who never married; never had kids; people wondered if she was mad. I find her magic. She is unkempt salt and pepper curls, a laugh large enough to fill a whole room, and the audacity to boss men around.

‘I was too loud for a husband,’ she tells me. ‘I was too big, too difficult. Too much. But you know what? I have always known who I am.’

Can I say that about myself? I really don’t know. When I am around Cassandra, I bask in her strength. I feel enough. I don’t pity her; she has a wonderful life, a whole life. Her loneliness has been the making of her.

When I think of all the time I’ve wasted on relationships with people who couldn’t love me back, not the way I needed to be loved, I make myself look at this picture.

It is pure me. No filters. No poses. No false perfection. I look at this picture and I know it is okay that I want so much. That I need to write and that I have given up so much for it. When I look at myself in this picture, somehow I know that I will be okay if I never get married and never have the children that my mother so desires for me to have.

I know I can draw strength from the women who’ve come before me, the women who gather around and support me, and the women who are yet to be born.

I look at this picture and I know that if I only have myself, I will be okay.


Image by Nicole Mason