Made by Sienna Stritter

To see how people respond to a realer representation in a profile picture. It's okay to not be okay.

Created: September 18th, 2015



A profile picture is often a depiction of our best version. It’s the image we pick to characterize us and it’s the face we want others to see.

But this means a profile picture doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. It might mask or hide the cracks we feel on the inside, even if on the outside we appear well put together.

So what if we were more transparent? What if we let the world see that we aren’t perfect, like pictures might imply? Why should we look happy and carefree when every one of us is struggling with something?

I want to fight the expectation that a profile picture needs to suggest that we are happy and thriving. I am going to change my profile picture to a headshot of myself with a large crack Photoshopped into my cheek. The intention is two-fold: First and foremost, I want to make a statement and create awareness that it is okay to not be okay, and that we should not conceal our inner brokenness with false representation. Second, this change is very uncharacteristic both for me personally (because I tend to refrain from making edgy, risky, or unusual posts) and for Facebook in general (since I will represent myself with a symbol of imperfection instead of a fake but perfect illustration). I am curious to see how my Facebook friends respond to this abnormal behavior.



My idea was inspired by a poster advertisement for the movie The Black Swan. 

A quick Google search revealed that adding cracks to a face is a fairly common Photoshop idea. 

First, I had my roommate take my photo. I made deliberate choices about how to present myself. I picked a plain, rather bleak background and decided to wear dark neutral colors with no jewelry. I didn’t want other aspects of the photo to distract from the cracks. I wanted to minimize self-embellishment so I was authentic as possible – hair up, no makeup, and no shower since soccer practice.

I’d never used Photoshop before, so I found it really challenging. I watched a few YouTube tutorials ( but not only did I have to figure what I wanted to change about the photo, I also had to learn how to do it! The most interesting design choice I made was what kind of crack to use. I went through many iterations – one large crack, a few medium sized cracks, or lots of little hairline cracks covering my entire face. Here are a couple of the iterations, at various stages of editing. 



To create my final product, I started with this original photo:


 I edited the image using Photoshop. I created a new layer with the picture of the crack paint. After isolating the crack from the background, I placed it on top of the image of my face. I used the warp and liquefy tools to make the crack look like it is wrapping around my facial features instead of just being placed on top. 

Then I used a photo editing application on my iPhone (Aviary) to enhance and heighten the crack. I made it black and white, to keep the focus on the content rather than the appearance. I also adjusted the lighting and contrast of the image to make the crack appear more prominently. Here’s the final product:



This photo immediately began receiving likes. About 12 hours after posting, it had 137 likes – not my most liked profile picture, but possibly one to receive the most likes in a short amount of time. 


Throughout the day, I was continuously surprised to see who liked it. Of course there were the obvious likers - my roommates who knew about the project and my best friends from home who obligatorily like anything and everything. But I also received likes from my high school classmate’s older siblings, from underclassmen from my high school I’ve barely met, from friends from sleep away camp in 6th grade, from friends of friends who went to our rival high school, from CMU students I’ve met in the last week… this list goes on. I was definitely not expecting such a widespread response, especially from people I don’t know well. 

Most of the comments I received on the picture were supportive and loving. I was pleased to see that it was well received – that instead of being confused or concerned by the statement I was trying to make, people reached out with encouragement. Although the picture did not explicitly identify a personal struggle of mine, admitting that I (along with everyone else) am broken in some way prompted people to express their love and care. I particularly like Megan’s comment, because she recognized that there can be non-traditional beauty in honesty and authenticity. Audrey’s comment affirms and validates my photo’s caption: “It’s okay not to be okay.”


I also received some texts. The first aligns with the themes of the comments. The second text, though, was what made me feel like I had accomplished my intended goal. My ultimate aim was to be “so real” and it was satisfying that someone appreciated that. And to be “an inspiration” was beyond my objective, but a pleasing and rewarding consequence nonetheless. 



Social media is a front. I chose to confront that in this project by stirring things up with the brutally honest admission that everyone is broken or struggling in some way and that it’s okay to not be okay.

I was nervous about posting it, but I’m so glad I did. I received support from many unexpected angles. It reinforced my realization that everyone does struggle. People could relate to my post in their own personal, private way – and that’s why I think it got a lot of the likes that I surprised me. Maybe people aren’t brave enough to publicize their own problems, but they might feel good about supporting the cause and encouraging transparency and authenticity by liking the post.

Not only was this a good exercise in pushing me out of my comfort zone by exposing myself in a “risky” way to all my Facebook friends, it was valuable learning experience. The support was a refreshing reminder that we are not alone in our struggles and that social media can be a platform for friends to support an individual. 

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To see how people respond to a realer representation in a profile picture. It's okay to not be okay.