Urban Etiquette: Help! I don't want my photo taken
I hate having my photo taken, but it seems whenever I go to a family dinner or to the cottage, someone is shooting everything with their phone, then posting it on Facebook, Instagram or whatever. Can I ask them not to take my picture? Or at least demand that I have final say over which pictures of me they post? — Anonymous
You raise a couple of issues here. The first is privacy. Perhaps you have a life-or-death reason for not wanting the world to know you have relatives, or that you go to a certain cottage. Maybe you’re in a witness protection program, and if a certain mobster is following your nephew on Instagram, he’ll be able to track you down and your whole family will be in danger. In this case, yes, by all means, tell the person with the camera to BACK OFF.
The other issue is vanity. You sound like the type of person who might not want pics on the internet showing yourself chowing down on a drumstick, guzzling beer straight from the keg, or bending over in a bikini while being shot from an unflattering angle.
I’m as vain and secretive as they come, so I completely understand. Thus, I will officially declare that it’s perfectly acceptable to politely ask relatives with cameras not to include you in any shots. If the relatives have any manners at all, they’ll respect your request.
At the same time, however, while being considerate is at the core of timelessly good manners, the actual rules of etiquette are ever evolving.
Nowadays, taking photos of anyone and everyone is almost as acceptable as saying hello. Amongst millennials, who grew up with the technology and have been photographed more or less daily since birth, bad photos of oneself are not just to be expected — they’re celebrated for demonstrating self-awareness and a sense of humour. One 20-something relative of mine explained it this way: “There’s a culture of wanting to be ‘real’ or ‘unfiltered’ — a desire to be affirmed for who you are with all your flaws, which is why a lot of people post vulnerable pics of themselves, or no-makeup pics.”
I could argue that no makeup is moot when you’re 20-something, but the point is: don’t be offended if someone’s taking your picture. Join in the fun when a relative wants to record a family event. Let go of believing anyone actually thinks you’re as perfect as your own carefully edited photos pretend. It’s a new age. You’re on camera. Smile!
Ellen Vanstone is a columnist based in Toronto covering issues around urban etiquette. Need advice? Email Ellen: