selfie, image, focal length, dysmorphia

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.


Not that it should matter, of course. But we're talking about people living in a society obsessed with personal appearance. It's going to matter to a lot of people, and if they get the wrong impression of their face, some people will go to all sorts of lengths to change it. That's why understanding a bit about how focal lengths on cameras can impact what we see in photographs is vital.

Writer Evey Winters shared some of that education in a post on Facebook. She writes about this topic through a trans and dysmorphia lens, but it applies to everyone.

Winters points out that if someone is thinking of doing surgery to change their bodies, they should seek sources outside of themselves and a cellphone camera.

"I have dysmorphia and recognize that in myself," she wrote, "but even if I didn’t, there’s not a selfie I’ve ever taken that would accurately help me make choices about my face. Mirrors are slightly better only for their minimal distortions."

"If you want the best chance at getting good feedback pre-op about what you might want to change," she added, "I’d recommend a skilled photographer take a series of photos of you at different focal lengths and even then none of these will be entirely accurate as none of these employ humans binocular vision and filtering."

Winters shared a collage of photos of the same girl's face at different focal lengths to show the significant difference it makes. "Notice how in different photos this child’s eyes may appear to be slightly hooded," she wrote. "The nose appears enlarged disproportionately. Hairline seems to shift with every snap. So does jaw shape, face shape, and even the width and size of the ears."

The difference between each of these photos is significant, but the difference between the first and the last is stunning. Cellphone selfie cameras usually have an even smaller focal length than the 40 mm shown here (Winters points out that the iPhone 13 Pro Max selfie camera has the equivalent of a 23 mm focal length), so they distort facial features even more. It also depends on how far away from the camera you are—the closer you are, the more distortion you'll see. Lighting matters, too, but even the best lighting can't cancel out what the focal length is doing.

Vox shared a video specifically about the "big nose" phenomenon with selfies, showing how drastic the distortion can be.

As a parent of two teens and a young adult, I find these photos to be fantastic tools for teaching my kids not to put too much stock in what they see in a selfie. Far too many people are increasingly seeking out plastic surgery to change a nose or a forehead or a jawline that doesn't even really exist. Imagine looking in a funhouse mirror and thinking you need to do something to change how you look. Selfie cameras are basically mini funhouse mirrors. Smartphones and apps are getting better at making filters that adjust for those distortions, but none of us should be relying on selfies of any kind to see what we really look like, much less taking major measures to alter our appearance based on what we see in them.

Even if you have some physical feature you simply can't accept and want to change, make sure you get a skilled photographer to give you the most accurate picture of what it actually looks like. As Winters concluded at the end of her post: "Make sure you’re not reshaping your body for a you that only exists in selfie cams."

Thank you for the reminder, Ms. Winters.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

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