An Investigation Into Why We All Make This Embarrassing And Specific Face

What The Duck Face Selfie And Peace Sign Pictures Really Mean

What does it mean!?

If you’ve ever taken a trip down Facebook memory lane (which you have, because Facebook forces it on you with their painful ‘On This Day’ feature), you’ve probably gotten to a point in your photo albums where you’re like,

What am I wearing?

Who let me cut my hair like that?

Why am I making that face?

While the questionable outfits you wore and severely unflattering haircut you had are worthy of discussion at a later date, what I’m here to talk about today is that face.

You already know exactly what face I’m talking about before I’ve even had the chance to describe it: the duck face selfie. Lips slightly pursed. A cocky little tilt to your head. And, more often than not, a little peace sign to top it all off.

As new as they may feel for those of us who remember the days when you’d have to wait to get photos developed before being able to see what you looked like, selfies have gone far past being mainstream and have just become expected. In 2010, Apple added the front-facing (AKA selfie) camera to its iPhones. Oxford Dictionary named ‘selfie’ its 2013 word of the year. There’s now even a museum dedicated to the “art of the selfie.”

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But, like any art, the road to the selfie in its current (and most beautiful) form was long and involved a lot of this:

The face is so pervasive that researchers have actually done studies to figure out what the “duck face” really means. And while that may seem a little extravagant when there are arguably far more important things to worry about in the world, the truth is the popularity of this particular facial expression (along with the peace sign that often accompanies it) is important.

No matter what kind of background you came from or how old you were when you started taking selfies, this seems to be the go-to expression — and something so common can’t be ignored.

Of course, I don’t have a fancy research team to help me prove any type of hypothesis, but I do unadulterated access to all of my friends’ most embarrassing Facebook photos as well as their insight into the meaning being THE face.

That’s me in the far-too-bright hoodie. I’ve never been a fan of having my photo taken. In fact, I’m pretty sure there is a portion of my life where I refused to be in any photos at all. For whatever reason, I’m deeply uncomfortable in front of the camera. This face was a way for me to pose without posing — my “IDGAF” face, one that was silly so I didn’t have to worry about looking “good.”

As for my friend in the gray hoodie, she says: I feel like that was the age where you start to realize, sexually, the differences between girls and guys. You start realizing boys are cute. So the face is an “I’m gonna be feeling myself, I’m gonna be flirting.” People are trying to look sexualized.

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This is my nightmare.

The face means to me "I'm too cool to care." I did it because I was taking a photo that I didn't really feel like taking and at the time, I wasn't really feeling the angle. Looking back now, I think this was a confident pose and I feel pretty good about the moment, although when I shared it I got a lot of criticism for having my peace sign in the wrong direction. I had no idea there was a right direction... but like the face in the photo says, whatevs.

Because literally… what else are you supposed to do with your face?! Posing for pics is undeniably awkward, so making this face is better than straight-up cheesin', right? Plus, it kinda looks like a nonchalant kiss from the right angle (maybe?). Looking back: Let's just say I definitely wouldn't do it again.

To me, THE face is just something fun! It shows that I was in a playful mood and having fun with the other person in the photo. However, I think the main purpose of it was to look cute. It allowed me to hide my smile (I had braces for a large majority of my teens/young adulthood). Also, it made my lips look plumper, my eyelashes longer, and my jaw bone more defined. That's what I thought back then anyway. Looking back on it, I'm only slightly embarrassed. I think that THE face has many versions and the one in this photo isn't so bad. I still think that it's kinda cute. And, I looked way cooler (and probably was way cooler) back then than I ever would now making that face.

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Micki Spollen is a YourTango editor, writer, and traveler. Follow her on Instagram and keep up with her travels on her website.