(Human) faces make me anxious

I’ve been trying to come up with a witty title for this post all day, but I worried what I thought was humorous would just come off as snarky (such as one rejected title “Dear Neurotypicals: plastering your faces all over things does not make me want to buy them”) and so instead I just went with blunt honesty.

I have always found it weird that people put their pictures on advertisements for services they offer or things they are trying to sell. If you sell real estate, doesn’t it make more sense to use a picture of some beautiful scenery of the region you work out of rather than a portrait photo of yourself? At least that’s how it’s always seemed to me, anyway.

As I’ve thought more about this since my diagnosis, I’ve come to suspect that there’s something that most people get out of this type of advertising that I don’t. Advertisers are always doing research to determine what works, so apparently this type of marketing has appeal or they wouldn’t waste their money on it. There’s probably some sort of reassurance or trust response when a prospective buyer/client/etc. can see the face of the person behind the business? I don’t know, that may be a wild guess, because I don’t have that response. Far from it. Faces staring at me from an ad, a business card, a giveaway promotional mug make me uncomfortable.

No. Not uncomfortable – anxious. The part of me that has been conditioned to accept ‘normal’ society substituted the word uncomfortable, but if I listen to a deeper, more primitive part of me, I recognize that seeing a face in that context – especially if it’s unexpected, like when I open an email from a stranger with a picture in the signature section – gives me a little anxious jolt.

Facebook was hard for me when I first began using it. I started on the Internet with Usenet and Listservs and POP email – signatures sometimes had elaborate ASCII art, but not actual pictures. Suddenly being bombarded by all those profile pics (and oh gods the damned selfies) was an unpleasant sensation. I think I’ve gotten used to it mainly because I have developed the ability to visually filter out things I don’t want to see – though in some cases, I have been known to hide a post or two featuring images where someone is staring right into the camera, because it feels like their eyes are boring into me.

At work we just upgraded to a different mail system, one that adds a profile picture area that shows in the list of messages and at the top of each message; it’s like a small electric shock every time I open Outlook and see faces. I even tried to find a way to turn it off.

I don’t know if I am explaining this very well… it’s hard to articulate. That’s the reason it’s taken me three days to get this post written, and it wasn’t all just the cat’s fault.

Anyway, I don’t know if this is an Autistic thing or just a me thing (though I suspect it’s related to the eye contact issue, so maybe not just me?) but the one time I commented to a coworker that I didn’t understand why salespeople insisted upon putting their pictures in their emails I got kind of a strange look.

I like looking at pictures of dogs, or cats, or horses – or spiders. Just not people. Well, or monkeys. I have never been a fan of monkeys.

Probably because they look a lot like people.

Featured Image: Grey Grasshopper, facing camera, perched on a wood deck.

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8 thoughts on “(Human) faces make me anxious

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  1. I know some autistics love selfies so I’m not sure if this is an autistic thing. But I believe some autistics may be more geared towards inanimate objects than humans.
    I have always find it weird, unnatural and fake to smile in front of a camera and I don’t know how people can have so much fun posing in front of a camera. Honestly, I think they ruin the scenery!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not sure it’s that I’m attuned towards inanimate objects so much (though my first ‘doll’ was a metal robot I slept with) as I’ve always been very comfortable with animals, just not anthropomorphic ones. I hated monkey toys, and if I was given plastic horses I always removed the riders. I went through a big horse-crazy phase but I didn’t want to ride a horse, I wanted to *be* one, lol.

      Making eye contact with a dog, for instance, doesn’t bother me at all, but having to hold eye contact with a stranger causes me great discomfort. Since my autism was undiagnosed, I always just assumed I was kind of a misanthropic weirdo. :-/

      Liked by 2 people

  2. My son is autistic and describes much of what you do. He doesn’t love eye contact, but will do it when he has to, however he’s not fond of looking at pictures of people at all, not even family. Just the other day I was asking him to please pretend to look at the photos his grandma was showing him, to be polite. He did it but the look on his face said it all.

    People are usually instinctively constantly searching for faces and they as the patterns we seek out as infants to find our protectors/parents. Someone is always seeing faces in things that are just coincidence, like Elvis in a pancake or seeing religious figures in stains. It’s usually just a matter of our eyes seeking the familiar. My son, like you, finds it almost offensive. He says it’s like people walking right into his room uninvited when he opens Facebook. Like they can see him through their photos.

    We’re all different. I find it to hard to remember names but always remember faces. My husband never forgets a name but struggles to recall what someone looked like. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “My son, like you, finds it almost offensive. He says it’s like people walking right into his room uninvited when he opens Facebook. Like they can see him through their photos.”

      OMG yes! That describes it perfectly!

      I had a support issue I had to work on a while back (I work in IT) where sheets of mugshots were not printing with the correct alignment; I had to print them over and over and stare at them, looking for the minute differences. It felt like all those angry faces (by nature of what the photos were, many of the subjects glared defiantly at the camera) were staring right at me and I was very frazzled by the end of the day. I finally resorted to turning the pages face down to get some relief.

      I don’t recognize/remember faces – I do have a touch of prosopagnosia, but it’s mostly because I avoid looking very closely at them to begin with. My partner and I have a running joke that ‘I don’t look at people, I point my face at them’ which is actually exactly what I do.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Haha! That’s perfect!! I’m going to share that with Colt. I’ll bet he uses that for the rest of his life. Just point your face at them and nod where necessary. Lol.

    I can imagine the things emotional imprint that sort of photo task you mention would have left. I don’t like angry faces myself. Anger isn’t safe for me and I scramble to either get away or alleviate the situation … even if the anger isn’t directed at me. I’m a pretty good mediator thanks to that but it doesn’t make the feelings any less unpleasant.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Omg yes!! In a way, a human face gives me clues about their vibe, so it might be helpful for me to see them. But you’re totally right – a picture of a good landscape or a pretty house would be an excellent way for a real estate agent to advertise! πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ.

    Your opening paragraph about the post title cracked me up! I love it 😁😁 β€οΈπŸ’š

    Liked by 1 person

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