Dat Facebook Photo

I originally wrote this article for Volume 122, Issue 5 of mathNEWS.

No, ma’am, I haven’t been drinking the kool-aid.

Lounging on a deck chair, wine glass in your left hand. Looking over an azure-coloured swimming pool, with sparks of sunlight glimmering throughout. In the background, a modest-sized apartment building, some foliage, and an over-exposed sky. In the foreground, on a small table, lies a stainless steel bowl, filled with ice, more wine glasses, and two bottles of white wine.

If you just looked at the Facebook photo from this Bay-Area pool party, you’d think that this would be a pretty accurate description of what happened. But it’s not. It’s a fabrication. The photo is real; the scenario described is not.

As we walk into the pool area, management starts yelling at us that “glass isn’t allowed near the pool”. Panicked, the interns try to come up with a plan B. Someone decides that disposable plastic transparent cups are good enough for the pool-side wine. The subject of the photo, though, is obsessed with getting that perfect shot with wine bottles sitting in an ice-filled steel bowl – so a bit more scrambling, someone’s camera comes out, and snap, snap, snap. I decide I’ve had enough – I know that the wine glasses will soon go back to whomever’s apartment, and the plastic cups filled with alcohol will start flowing, and maybe people will actually splash around in the pool. Before anyone can stop me, I run to the bus stop and take the next bus home – it’s not like I know how to swim, anyway.

As interns for big tech companies in the valley, you’re probably doing pretty well. You’re given subsidized housing with other co-ops and interns, a pretty fat pay-cheque, and really awesome access to food[0]. You don’t need to stage Facebook photos to show off how “baller” you are. I wanted to be friends with you because I liked you as a person. I still do. But not like this.

The next time you’re taking photos for Facebook – please, be authentic. Capture that extemporaneous quality that makes you who you are. It’ll take you one step closer to maximizing happiness.


[0] Whether it’s on-site cafeterias, catered lunches, or fancy restaurants within walking distance of the office.