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VICE Staffers Share the Stories Behind Their Cringe-Inducing First Facebook Photos

We asked our writers to look back through their archives and remember the clove-cigarette-smoking, shoplifting, lip-ringed days of their youth.

by VICE Staff
Feb 3 2016, 5:50pm

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Facebook's dystopian "On This Day" function has been going for about a year now, but it feels like none of us have acknowledged the wretchedness of beginning each day by looking back at how previous days may have been better than the present: spending time with people we prefer to those currently in our lives, employed in more fulfilling jobs, walking on a beach in a country you'll never return to, and not scrolling through Facebook in an office wondering if it would be a bad thing if you got fired.

These daily nostalgia injections also serve to remind us how much of our lives are still on Facebook—not just the profile pictures we carefully curate to make us look fit, but the five-year-old tagged photos of that awful trip to some festival where you wore neon pink face paint. Don't think that people aren't bothering to look at those bits to see if you're a suitable person to have sex with; they definitely are.

Even if you're not a professional Facebook lurker, we've all done the entry-level "tagged photo left arrow" stalk, where pressing that one button takes you right back to the start of your friend's tagged photos. You in a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt in an album called "NEWQUAY 2006, NEVER FORGET :)". You during that phase where you put concealer on your lips and tilted your head 90 degrees to the left every time a camera was in the same room as you.

That first photo says everything about you that you don't want to be said: Your misplaced assurance in your own sense of style, your weird face that hadn't properly found what shape it's supposed to be—it's like having your bar mitzvah video played on repeat for anyone to watch at any time.

With that in mind, we got a bunch of VICE staffers to write about their first tagged photos and what it says about them. Frankly, they're all idiots for doing this, because now these pictures are not only available to all their Facebook friends, but are going to come up on Google Images for the rest of eternity. Suckers.

Hanson O'Haver (Social Editor, VICE US)

This is a photo from 2007, of me on a beach in Santa Barbara, during my freshman year of college. I'm wearing a Weirdo Rippers-era No Age shirt under an American Apparel sweatshirt, thanks to a friend who worked at the store and let me buy things with a heavy discount. I'm also smoking two clove cigarettes at the same time because I was that type of guy.

I spent most of that year annoyed that I didn't get into any of the colleges I wanted to go to, mentally hating on fraternity guys and the girls who went to their parties, and trying to get good grades so I could transfer schools. I don't really remember much else. I took intro to philosophy that year so I know I must have felt alienated. I remember that one time a group of us got stoned and rode our bikes to see Pineapple Express. We ran into a drunk driver checkpoint and I was the only one who freaked out. I turned around, biked back to campus, locked my bike, walked to the theater, paid for a ticket, and watched the second half of the movie.

The next year I moved to New York, realized that everyone had been perfectly nice to me, and felt like an idiot for being a gloomster while people who wanted to be my friend played frisbee on a beach in December. I don't keep in touch with anyone from back then, but I've held on to lots of pictures of people in racist halloween costumes, just in case any of them ever run for office.

Paris Lees (Writer, VICE UK)

I've always been hot. This photo shows me soon after I transitioned from male to female, in the late 2000s, before it was trendy. I think I look pretty feminine for someone born physically male who hadn't, at that point, taken hormones or had any surgeries. That's my natural hair color at the roots, by the way. Long time no see! My bum's fatter now, which I prefer. Oh god, why the fuck is my ass on Facebook? I don't think I had much validation in other areas of my life back then, so a lot of my self-worth came from feeling sexy. I thought that men's lust for me proved I was a real girl. I thought I was a fucking Pussycat Doll.

I was an escort as a teen and advertised this pic in the back of Exchange and Mart magazine. I was a "fully functional Pre-Op TS" offering "the full girlfriend experience" for "discreet gents." Laser hair removal and food aren't free. The photo was taken by some sleazeball called Callum, who made bukkake films and the odd bit of "tranny" porn. I thought his place was posh at the time—now I see the bed frame is tatty IKEA shit. I never did any of his videos because I always knew I'd be a big deal one day and didn't want it coming back to bite me in that gorgeous bum of mine. I'm on X-Tube, though. No face. Tenner if you can find me.

River Donaghey (Associate Editor, VICE US)

Sorry for the lo-res pic everyone

An older friend of mine had a bunch of acres of farmland outside of Eugene, Oregon, so he decided to build a stage and put on a thing called VirgoFest. He invited my band to play, and this is from that time. We all camped out on his property and took drugs and got chigger bites. I was 15 and had hair that could only be described as "Peter Frampton-esque." My nails were painted black, but the camera mercifully missed that.

I'm wearing a Wowee Zowee-era Pavement shirt that was very short for some reason. My belly button was always exposed. Those two girls were older than me—they'd driven down from Washington State to see our show. At a point during the acid trip later that night one of them said she didn't believe in evolution and everyone thought she was kidding. The one on the right took my shirt when she left. I never saw them again.

Joel Golby (Staff Writer, VICE UK)

Ah yes, here's me rocking a Sandi Toksvig–esque haircut and the kind of sunglasses they give you after you have laser eye surgery. I am wearing one of those sort of zip-thru granddad cardigans that were the only thing Burtons sold for a good 18-month period ten years ago, and I would not describe this as a "strong look." Not even at all.

I remember this party: It was the end of second year of university at the house of a guy I hated. In the first year this guy came into our halls and tried to invent a new slang term for cool, which was "chili pepper." As in: [Look at something cool] "Yo, bro! Chilli pepper!" Later it was shortened to just "chili." He found true meaning in his life when he joined the university ultimate frisbee team. He called ultimate frisbee "disc." "That disc sesh was really chili" was an actual sentence he actually said. He wore two wrist sweatbands at all times. I hated him so much. I still do. I wonder what he's up to now, actually? What was his name... Simon something? "Si." Oh shit, I've just found him on—he's a business development manager. That is so Si. He has written his job title like this: "BDM." His Facebook page is every cliché going: He has checked himself in to his local commuting train station. He has done a "flight booked Milan 2016" update with a cry-laugh emoji. He's shared one of those recipe videos doing the rounds. This one seems to be shepherd's pie jacket potatoes. They look revolting.

I wonder if he's happy, you know? I bet, deep down, he's happy. I bet he goes home and eats a jacket potato stuffed with shepherd's pie filling and thinks about Milan and cuddles up tight to his girlfriend and thinks: nothing. I bet he thinks nothing. This has long been my theory: That the truly basic cannot be deeply unhappy because they have so little synaptic firing that they are genuinely satisfied with Family Guy reruns and mince-based meals and early nights and holidays pencilled in for eight months' time.

But what am I doing that is so good, huh? I mean: Who the fuck am I? Why did I hate him in the first place? Is it because he was everything I was not? He was popular: that was why we were at the party. Girls liked him, which was an additional reason why I was at the party. In fact, one girl entirely mistook me for him and started... I don't know, talking to me. Why did I hate him? Maybe... maybe I'm the dickhead of this story, you know? Me in my fucking sunglasses indoors and my "Dad's taken the divorce quite badly so he's moving in with a man called Hilary" haircut and my fucking zip-thru cardigan. Sitting silently in the kitchen of a house party drinking beer and talking to the same friend I always talked to. Taking this blurry-ass picture. I'm awful. I absolutely loathe myself.

Daisy-May Hudson (Producer, VICE UK)

This is me, breaking free from the chains of Epping, at the tender age of 15 for my first ever house party. I'd never been to London on the train before and my mum called me at least four times before I'd even got there. Up until this point my drink of choice had always been Malibu and pineapple, and my look basically involved straightening my baby hair so hard that it stuck up on its end. But here I was navigating my way through a sea of nu-rave boys wearing pink skinny jeans with kirby grips in their hair listening to Cajun Dance Party. I had discovered a whole new world. I hadn't forgotten my roots, though: If you look closely, you can see my necklace says "Epping Gash."

Aws Al-Jezairy (VICE News)

This was in my early days of getting smashed. I was an obnoxious drunk with little self-control and wouldn't consider it a successful night out unless I had turned paralytic or picked a fight with someone. This was at a nu-rave themed party that actually took place during the height of nu-rave. Don't know if that makes us meta or just dickheads. It was when I first discovered American Apparel too, so I was head-to-toe in it—apart from my jacket, which was probably bought from Krisp or Mark One. I was wearing a stolen pair of the staple AA striped thigh-high socks, and jewelry that I had stolen during my biggest and only ever shoplifting binge. I think you'll agree that I look great.

Matt Taylor (Crime Editor, VICE US)

This photo doesn't actually include my face, which is probably for the best. It's the spring of 2006, and I was going through a phase where I was trying to make up for my previous phase of really caring about homework. So here I am in an album titled "Beer Pong," getting into some kind of Natty Light-and-weed-inspired backyard boxing match, and, in fairness, loving every bit of it.

I also may have been engaged in some subconscious effort to make up for the fact that a year earlier, I got in a fight with a guy I worked with—we were cabana boys—and didn't exactly prevail in the parking-lot melee.

Jamie Clifton (Deputy Editor, VICE UK)

This is me in 2006, which was the year "Gravity's Rainbow" (Note: This is a song by Klaxons, which were a big deal in the UK.) came out, which you probably could have guessed from the pink headband and green metallic eye shadow I have smeared over quite a lot of my face. I was at a nu-rave fancy dress party, but I did also go outside dressed like this a few times.

The Klaxons look wasn't a super popular one in the town I went to college in—the cool guys in the canteen were more into Bench T-shirts and those funny wet-gel faux-hawk mullet things you now only see on European footballers or jobbing magicians—but don't worry, no one ever shouted insults at me. I was never made to feel persecuted for being really into primary colors. Still, it's a pretty good illustration of the confidence of youth. Soon after this was taken, a load of stuff happened that made me grow up really quickly and develop a crippling self-awareness that would make it impossible to do anything without second-guessing it ever again. Shouts to adulthood!

The lip ring is a hangover from my pop-punk phase. I did get a lot of shit for that. A kid outside a cinema called me a mosher, so I called him a townie, so he punched me in the throat, so I hit him on the arm, and an usher broke up the only fistfight I've ever been in.

Tshepo Mokoena (Weekend Editor, VICE UK)

Rectangular frames, like street harassment or every Clapham bar, are a reminder of everything that's wrong with humanity. I used to wear them in my part-hippie, mostly clueless about clothes phase, when I'd cut off my chemically treated hair and grown dreads as a political statement on rejecting Westernized beauty standards. Or something. I was 16, both naive and idealistic. My BFF of six years at the time took this photo in the bedroom of one of our closest friends. She lived a few doors down from me, in our electric-fenced, guard-patrolled suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe, and was legally old enough to have that just-seen bottle of South African cream liqueur in her room.

OK, so, the candy penis pouch. It was a gift from one male friend to another, given the day this was taken, and we may or may not have later eaten it off his body.

Sam Wolfson (Executive Editor, VICE UK)

The photo comes from an album called "Uncle Nick and Aunty Claire's Silver Wedding Anniversary." They're not relatives of mine. The truth is even more depressing: When I was about 16 I would make some extra cash taking genuinely the worst PA system in Britain to bar mitzvahs and 50ths and "DJing." I remember this one went very badly and I was essentially booed off my by friend's parents and all their mates. I think we just put on The Best of Motown in the end. Still got £150 [$220] though.

Bruno Bayley (VICE UK Magazine Editor)

I have never had Facebook. I was heavily dug into a phase of pretension at the time all my friends started getting into it, and made such a fuss about how crap and self-congratulatory it was that I couldn't ever sign up, even years later when, at times, I imagine I could have enjoyed it. I did, however, get a MySpace, which was, unsurprisingly, crap and totally self-congratulatory. It was probably worse than having Facebook because it was consciously not Facebook.

MySpace thankfully coincided with my end of university/start of going out in east London phase. Accordingly, all the photos on it are of me at my friends' club nights wearing bad hats and T-shirts with lots of writing on them. This is representative of the genre: me in a "fun" hat, wearing a T-shirt with my friend's record label's logo on it, at Push, an indie-electro piss-up attended almost exclusively by acquaintances of the promoters, at Astoria 2, pretending to be more drunk than I was because I thought it made me look cool.

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we all used to look terrible
except aws that is still a strong look today tbh