The psychology of symmetry in a digital world

Mirror me

Real me

This week’s RadioLab on Symmetry included a story of an extremely unpopular guy who realized that if he changed the side of his hair part, so he looked to the rest of the world like the version of “him” that he saw in the mirror, he would become more popular.

Then there was the guy who makes mirrors that show you your “real image” instead of your mirror image. He talked about how freaked out people get when they see themselves in it. Very. freaked out. I started to freak out listening to it! It occured to me that my hair may NOT look as awesome to everyone else as it does to myself!

Thanks to modern technology (PhotoBooth), I could easily take a “mirror” picture of me and a “real” picture of me. See above.

I was shocked by how much I didn’t freak-out from my real image. In fact, if I had to pick out an image that represents me, I would pick the true self version, not the mirror image. I think it’s because of digital cameras and Facebook. I am so used to seeing myself the way other people see me. Everytime I log into Facebook (at least once a day) I’m presented with my true face. Abraham Lincoln would have been shocked to see himself, but not me.

A photo is one thing, though. I wonder if I’d be freaked out if I were to see the “real me” in an actual mirror, for no reason other than the psychological. In fact, when I had my first Mac, Photobooth was defaulted to flip all pictures – showing me my true self when I looked into the video camera. I had to turn the preference off, preferring to deal with my mirror image self.

Oh but the real question – does the mirror image photo of me look weird to all of you?

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