Can You See Me?

Made by Paola Aguilar

This project looks at the importance of 'faces' on Facebook by monitoring the response (or rather lack of) to a pixelated profile picture.

Created: September 22nd, 2015


Now You See Me. Now You Don't.


I used this project to explore the idea of anonymity in a social environment in which most people prefer to loudly announce themselves to the world. While I am aware that there are users on Facebook that attempt to conceal their personal identity, my friends are no such people and thus my Newsfeed is a hodgepodge of selfies, clickbait articles, wall posts, and events that reflect my friends' looks, interests, and whereabouts. To this extent, I chose to add a shred of anonymity to my current Facebook profile picture by blurring out all the faces in it.

Process and Product

I utilized a website called PhotoHide to pixelate both my sister's face and mine. It is interesting to note that this website specifically targets people who want to obscure their faces in personal images. I had always assumed that those who wanted more privacy would simply avoid uploading pictures of themselves to social media sites.

Before and After



I am a passive user on Facebook that mostly uses it to communicate with international friends through its Messenger service; I rarely upload images and, with the exception of a few birthday posts, have seldom posted a status. Since I do not publicly interact with others on Facebook, I did not expect a response. For the most part my expectations were met, and my pixelated image drowned among more interesting and dramatic posts. I got two likes and a few of my closest friends contacted me either privately online or in person. I find it curious that two friends did break the boundaries of 'the web' by interacting with me face-to-face about online material; to this day I have never had a in person conversation about someone's profile picture. What happens online tends to stay online. Or at least that is the case in my passive user life.


Interestingly enough after changing my profile back to its un-pixelated state I got 8 new likes within the first hour. That is four times as much as my blurry image garnered in 6 hours. And my normal profile picture was old material that had already plagued people's walls in March.

In the End

Faces matter. 

The goal of anonymity is to pass unperceived, and that is exactly what happened to my profile picture. I wonder what people who saw my pixelated profile thought as they scrolled on by: was it just a 'oh that's odd' or a 'next!'  thought. Is it facial expressions that typically stop the scrolling masses? Or is it a person's body language in an image that calls for attention? My profile had neither. I would like to see the result of this experiment with someone who does interact with the Facebook population -- would the results be the same? Maybe it just takes more effort for me to be noticed on Facebook. 

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This project looks at the importance of 'faces' on Facebook by monitoring the response (or rather lack of) to a pixelated profile picture.