This story appears in VICE magazine and Broadly's 2018 Privacy and Perception Photo Issue.
I was in sixth grade when I first joined a social media platform that required me to post a photo of myself. My friends—a group of Somali girls who went to my mosque—helped me plug in a Sony snapshot camera and upload a selfie to Myspace. I didn’t know how to crop photos at the time, so I decorated it with Blingee and Microsoft Paint.
The act was exciting but nerve-wracking. I wasn’t supposed to use Myspace, much less post photos of myself online—my religious mother was paranoid that someone we knew would somehow come across my page and consider me indecent.
After Islamic school every week, my friends and I would study geometry together and log into Myspace in between check-ins from our parents. We were intensely invested in the process of choosing profile pics, especially since, no matter how appropriate the photos were, if we ever got caught, we’d be forced to explain ourselves. So, we always went with the safest options, and we never even allowed the idea of posting pictures without hijabs to cross our minds.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.