When a Friend Posts Unflattering Pictures of You Online

Friends That Embarrass You With Photos

Young woman waving camera away at party
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One of the most maddening and hurtful things that can happen between friends is when someone posts an unflattering picture of you online. It feels like a betrayal, in part because you wonder if a friend really cares about you, or if they're some kind of frenemy that you've mistakenly given your trust to.

While some friends might really just be clueless, others get a high from posting something online that makes you look bad.

They might even believe that if you look awful, they'll look good.

Why It Happens

Just about everyone has either a phone or a camera these days, and sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram encourage you to upload your snaps. It's natural to be out somewhere and want to document the great time you're having with a friend. The trouble comes when you know your friend doesn't look great, and you go ahead and post the shot anyways.

Some friends post so many pictures of themselves they genuinely can't understand when a friend is uncomfortable with having their picture posted somewhere online. They will post photos first and only take them down when a friend complains, if then.

What to Do When a Good Friend Posts Your Ugly Photos

When you see that a close friend has posted a photo you don't want online, confront them. Don't leave a comment on the post, however. Comments can be deleted and can also be viewed as complaining when viewed by other clueless sorts who think you're being too sensitive.

Instead, call them up and ask them to take it down. 

A better option is to communicate using a method completely unrelated to the way your friend was able to post the picture. Calling them up or seeing them in person, for example, will make a greater impact and get your friend out of their own personal zone long enough to take you seriously so they can listen to what you're saying.

Your friend needs to respect your boundaries, and when they cross the line it's up to you to tell them that. You don't have to get nasty about it, but you do need to say, "Look, you know that picture of me is unflattering and you posted it anyways. That hurts my feelings. Please take it down."

A good friend will feel bad that you're hurt, even if they don't agree that the photo is bad. Sometimes our friends think we look great in photos when we don't think so ourselves. Give your friend the benefit of the doubt that this was an honest mistake if it's an isolated incident.

When a Casual Friend Posts an Unflattering Picture of You Online

Things get trickier when a casual acquaintance posts something of you online. People we aren't close with now have access to photos of us and can share them as they like.

When you confront someone, speak from a place of strength. This means that you aren't whiny or passive, but you aren't going to be snarky or hurtful to them, either. The best response when someone has done something mean to you is to show them how low they are by maintaining your dignity.

With a casual acquaintance, a phone call or face-to-face visit might not be possible or prudent. Instead, you'll have to post online, perhaps even on the offending picture's post.

You can say:

"Not a flattering picture of me, but then you must know that. Would have been nice if you didn't post it."

Or:

"Told you I didn't give my permission to have that on your page. Wonder why you felt good posting it?"

Or:

"Looks like you picked the one picture where everyone else looked bad."

After you leave the comment, don't engage any further. The person who posted the picture might not even get what you're trying to say, but they will look bad on their page to everyone else. Others may defend you or this person's close friends may tell them that posting the picture wasn't cool.

You can also ask that person to take the picture down, but if you're in with a group of people or at an event that your friend likes, they might not do it. Some folks really are clueless about this type of thing, while others have issues with self-esteem, and the only way they can really feel good about themselves is by doing something that makes another person look bad.

Ways to Set Boundaries and Protect Yourself

If people are repeatedly posting pictures of you that you don't want online, be cautious about how you pose for pictures, or what you do when you see a camera around. Don't assume that the person taking your picture will ask your permission to use it.

  • Avoid being in pictures. Offer to take the photos or just step out of the way when a picture is being snapped.
  • Ask that photos not be posted online before the camera goes off. Not everyone is trying to hurt you by posting your photos online, so if you're generally not comfortable with it tell the person snapping the picture. You can just say, "I hate having pictures of myself online and would appreciate it if you didn't post it on Facebook or Instagram" and leave it at that. Some people may find that weird, but who cares? It's your life and you have to set the boundaries you desire so you can feel safe and secure.
  • Don't post unflattering photos of others. Let the Golden Rule be your guide.
  • Use privacy settings on Facebook and Instagram wisely. It's hard to keep up changes to privacy setting for sites like Facebook, but do your best to protect yourself. Monitor the settings you have in place periodically so you can prevent pictures you're unhappy with.