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Should I Facecam?

I podcasted about whether to start using facecam for some videos. I’m looking for feedback on this decision.

Facecam would give people additional info about what I’m like and how I live, including about mood, emotions and reactions (or lack of). It’d also give info about fashion, blemishes, race, age and some other stuff. People have to deal with IRL so role modeling how to do that, including dealing with hecklers, has some value. Facecam is dangerous for second-handers, but I’m not personally scared about being judged and becoming self-conscious or defensive. I do have concerns about reducing focus on ideas and ceasing to boycott some social dynamics, but people can actually be more distracted by making stuff up than by seeing reality, and showing how I handle social dynamics is a different way to combat the bad ones.

Those are just a few quick thoughts. Hear more considerations in the podcast and share your opinion below.

Elliot Temple on October 24, 2020

Messages (13)

People think things like failure to dress and groom well (as they define well) is showing *disrespect* because you weren't willing to put the effort into trying to appeal to them. Facecamming might offend them (since I'm not going to put a bunch more effort into that stuff). That's OK but I think it's a notable fact about the world that I didn't mention. The people who think that way are hopefully pretty far from the type in my audience anyway, though I think a lot of people have a subtle little bit of that in their thinking.

curi at 2:59 PM on October 24, 2020 | #1 | reply | quote

I don't like videos where people show their face as much as I like videos where the screen has useful content on it and they're just talking about it. For example, I prefer Sargan of Akkad videos where he doesn't show his face to the ones where he does.

In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt didn't show his face when he addressed the country:

> The chief engineer was the only one able to move; he ran to a television set and struggled frantically with its dials. But the screen remained empty; the speaker had not chosen to be seen. Only his voice filled the airways of the country – of the world, thought the chief engineer – sounding as if he were speaking here, in this room, not to a group, but to one man; it was not the tone of addressing a meeting, but the tone of addressing a mind.

Even though Stephen Wolfram works remotely most of the time, he doesn't show his face when he videoconferences, no does he expect to see the faces of others:

> When I mention to people that I’m a remote CEO, they often say, “You must do lots of videoconferencing”. Well, actually, I do basically no videoconferencing. Screensharing is great, and critical. But typically I find video distracting. Often I’ll do a meeting where I have lots of people in case we need to get their input. But for most of the meeting I don’t need all of them to be paying attention (and I’m happy if they’re getting other work done). But if video is on, seeing people who are not paying attention just seems to viscerally kill the mood of almost any meeting.

> Given that I don’t have video, audio is very important, and I’m quite a stickler for audio quality in meetings...

> Even though I don’t use “talking head” video for meetings, I do have a document camera next to my computer. One time I’ll use this is when we’re talking about phones or tablets. Yes, I could connect their video directly into my computer. But if we’re discussing user experience on a phone it’s often helpful to be able to actually see my finger physically touching the phone.

One of his points is that showing people's faces can kill the mood if they aren't paying attention. I don't find that very compelling, but I agree with him that seeing video of people's faces is distracting.

Alisa at 4:54 PM on October 24, 2020 | #2 | reply | quote

I don't think I pull much useful information from appearance and facial expressions, either in person or on video. And they're also not distracting to me. I don't look at people's faces much when there's something else to look at. So I don't think whether you facecam or not will have much impact on how I process your content.

I could be wrong / bad at introspection about this. I'd be surprised though. I'm pretty confident about my guess.

Some more general comments -

Culture: I prefer not to use facecam on communication services that have it (Webex, Zoom, etc), and I almost never do. There has to be pretty significant pressure before I will turn on my cam. I find most of my co-workers are similar. Only 10%-20% of people turn on their cam if there's no pressure to do so. Which, for most meetings, there isn't. I am on several meetings every work day...all of which could use facecam. But I think I've turned on my cam something like twice since July. That is actually pretty consistent with my company's culture. Managers / executives use facecam a lot more though.

When there is pressure to facecam, a few people are the source of almost all of it. They'd clearly like to change the culture to be one in which facecam is expected unless there's a good reason not to. I think it's important to resist them. I don't want a culture where facecam is expected. Part of that has spilled over to me liking your choice to (so far) not use a facecam.

Curiosity: I have some curiosity about what you look like. It's idle curiosity in the sense that I can't articulate either a reason for it nor what I would do with the information if I had it. While a facecam would satisfy that curiosity the first time you used it, a still profile photo would satisfy it just as well.

Cult: People sometimes accuse FI of being a cult. One common characteristic of cults is having a charismatic leader. The fact that you don't show your face is inconsistent with what most people think of as a cult leader.

Andy Dufresne at 6:45 PM on October 24, 2020 | #3 | reply | quote

Video: Asmongold makes mostly social comments about photos of people's computer setups (without any person in the photo):

Actually pretty relevant. On the one hand, he's being a social jerk a lot of the time. On the other hand, the photos absolutely contain significant information.

curi at 1:09 AM on October 25, 2020 | #4 | reply | quote

at the 20:40 mark curi says something like: there should be a way to change music/game/talking volumes on videos like u can in videogames

one thing i was thinking about as a solution for playing copyrighted music on twitch without breaking copyright: you could like have some kind of application that the viewers download so they can play the same music that u are playing at the same time.

that way you are not actually uploading the copyrighted music, its just that a bunch of ppl are like watching it on youtube at the exact same time you are.

if that was a thing then it would be ez to turn down music

internetrules at 1:32 AM on October 25, 2020 | #5 | reply | quote

> I don't think I pull much useful information from appearance and facial expressions, either in person or on video. And they're also not distracting to me. I don't look at people's faces much when there's something else to look at. So I don't think whether you facecam or not will have much impact on how I process your content.

#3 I think this is contextual. If someone is concentrating on you or thinking about a problem you can get that information by looking at them, but not by listening to them unless they tell you. Sometimes those things don't matter, sometimes they do.

There's a lot more info than just their face, though. e.g. you can often see whether they're typing.

Max at 2:14 AM on October 25, 2020 | #6 | reply | quote

having a face cam is an advantage

Humans respond to a face much more strongly then to abstract shapes. We are wired to recognize face-like patterns even in a clutter of shapes. Most successful streamers and content creators even the educational ones have their face or full body on display.

Yes people will not really get an additional information regarding the topic itself from your face but it will increase their attention span if their eyes have something familiar to focus on while listening.

So all in all a face will increase attention span and is a good thing.

wisp at 8:18 AM on October 25, 2020 | #7 | reply | quote

Danger: Getting Recognized

Getting recognized in public would be bad. That would happen if I shared my face and got famous.

The potential downsides include both positive recognitions (smalltalk, trying to meet me, other time wasters, people taking or requesting photos) and negative recognitions (harassment, rude comments, people wanting to argue with me).

There are different ways to get famous. There's the regular way where people like your stuff. And there's also internet or meme famous that can be from a negative viral video making fun of you or cancelling you. You're less likely to get recognized in public from the negative stuff because you don't get as famous and people don't look at you as much. Fans who watch you for many hours are better at recognizing you.

Thoughts on this risk?

curi at 1:11 PM on October 25, 2020 | #8 | reply | quote

VDH has talked about having to deal with occasional harassment. He's a big name professor and on Tucker all the time so he's very non-anonymous. He says that people sometimes just stop by his house (he talks about where he lives a fair amount so that's public information pretty much). Most people are friendly fans who just want to say hi and I think that he's okay with that, but occasionally some not-fan comes by and he has to tell them to get off his property.

Justin Mallone at 1:27 PM on October 25, 2020 | #9 | reply | quote

#8 The example for Tucker or a big name professor does not work here since the scale is completely different. Lets take the most extreme example from your own platform where you will show your face, youtube. PewDiePie is the biggest one man channel and he rarely has trouble going out and doing regular stuff. Now scale that down to your channel and I don't think you will have much trouble with fans and harassers. At least I think the risk is minimal.

wisp at 7:06 PM on October 25, 2020 | #10 | reply | quote

Should I facecam

The risk may be unlikely, but when you say controversial stuff, it could be unlikely but bad if it does happen.

I really like the videos from Khan Academy (no face) and Quaint Housewife - hands. Both have steady voices, as do you. I was surprised when I did see Sal Khan;yes, I'd created my own image.

If you want people to see your pillow, just show it to


Some people are easily distracted, and faces and backgrounds can detract from focus on the important stuff.

I do like the idea of context and knowing what your life is like because it is part of what makes you think like you do. But you can talk about that. It doesn't seem to me that the reasons you suggest for facecamming outweigh the reasons for not doing so.

Min at 5:27 AM on November 3, 2020 | #11 | reply | quote

For ppl who haven't done makeup, I talk a bit today about social pressuring around women and makeup and particularly how it interacts with going on webcam. (like video conferencing in this age of social distancing, etc.)

If you don't know about the ways that ppl are judged on webcam for their appearance then I recommend you watch the above; it might give you some insight you didn't have before. If you have other resources that explore these topics I would like if you can share them (I am interested).

Also, I think curi already knows these things, so I'm making this post for other ppl if they're reading this later.

Max at 12:09 AM on February 8, 2021 | #12 | reply | quote

the main point of cam is to provide more info that could be useful to ppl. i think ppl should want it and could benefit, just like with many other things they mostly use poorly. i doubt ppl will pay enough (including non-money) for it to be worth the inconveniences.

curi at 11:30 PM on April 11, 2021 | #13 | reply | quote

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