Senior pictures encourage superficiality


Julia Vogl

This graph is based on answers of a survey of 110 seniors at BSM.

If you’ve been on Facebook in the past five months, you may have noticed that some of your senior friends have gotten ridiculously hotter. And not just the pedestrian growing-into-themselves type of hot; I mean country star in a cornfield, psychedelic jeans commercials, and Italian cologne hot. Welcome to the world of senior pictures. And just like Levi’s, Taylor Swift, and Giorgio Armani, these photos are nothing more than mirages masking the dual evils of superficiality and classism.

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Undeniably, the average high-schooler lives an awkward existence. We’re plagued by demanding parents, a competitive education system, and crippling, acne-abhorring social constructs. These misfortunes lead down the road of insecurity and self-doubt: a trail well-known to seasoned seniors.

At the climax of this story comes senior year; amid all the stresses and anxieties enters the senior portrait. These time capsules are intended to be a stress-free distraction from the pressures of senior year—the magical photographer casts a spell and with a few waves of his or her cursor, you look like a glamorous prince or princess.

This sounds idyllic—but underneath the dreamy facade lies something more sinister. Senior pictures come with a certain prevalence and tradition of being shared, generating somewhat of an attractiveness arms race.

Social media exacerbates the situation. Stylized senior pictures regularly get Facebook likes into the triple digits. This numerical popularity scale hinders any seniors with anxiety regarding their physical appearance by reducing their humanity. When held to a greater scrutiny, it reinforces the already dangerous stereotype that one’s looks are what matter.

Students and parents are often compelled to get senior pictures because of its aura of tradition and the desire to capture a snapshot of “senior life.” If senior picture really did depict the senior year experience, you’d be changing your profile picture to completing college applications, working for minimum wage, or studying for that upcoming Physics test. The mind-numbing truth is that you probably don’t regularly cup your chin in thought while lounging on a rusty car. And if you think sensual sprawling ‘encapsulates your personality,’ that’s even more ridiculous. Memories shouldn’t revolve around your past dispositions; they are a reminder of what you have done, your impact.


Another complicating factor of senior pictures is that they are not only heavily edited, they are also expensive. If you look at a public school’s yearbook, you won’t see nearly as many glitzy senior pics. That’s because senior pictures routinely cost upwards of $500, with more money added on for each individual shot published.

Now this might be chump change to some folks at BSM, but it is not cheap when you consider that a large percentage of teens in the United States live below the poverty line. Imagine you’re a destitute child struggling to both graduate and make ends meet. There is no place for a pricy picture in that position. This makes for a sticky social situation—one that could lead to further isolation as an indirect result of the senior pictures.

Senior pictures appeal to the vices of vanity and status while masquerading as positive reproductions of the “best years of your life.” Any beneficial outcomes that result from senior pictures are inconsequential byproducts of a soul-sucking facet of our generation’s society. There are those who refuse the seductive call of the photo-op, and those people are to be commended on their individuality and courageous stance against conformity. To remain blind to the issue is to remain in tacit support for the status quo, a condition of compliance with superficiality and classism.