SURF THIS: Think your family is awkward? Check this out.

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Jim Cota

This is an article I didn’t want to write, for two reasons: First, I know several people who regularly read these articles and depend on me (to some degree) to keep them informed about what’s happening online.

Second, sharing this guilty pleasure makes me feel a little … well, grimy. Especially in light of the first reason.

But it seems to me we’ve reached a point in our lives, with this economy, the unemployment rate, and tax day right around the corner, where we could use a good laugh. So I’ve decided it’s time to tell you about Awkward Family Photos (www.awkwardfamilyphotos.com).

Now, it’s true that there’s a certain amount of poking fun at other people going on at Awkward Family Photos. But unlike other sites (for example, www.peopleofwalmart.com), many of the photos featured on AFP were actually provided by the people in the picture. Once you’ve seen a few of them, you’ll recognize this behavior as some sort of therapy, something along the lines of, “You can’t expect me to be normal. Look what my mother made me do.”

Now, a quick word about People of Walmart.  

Web review The Web site Awkward Family Photos specializes in cringe-worthy material from the general public. (Photo Courtesy AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com)

I can’t keep you from wasting a good part of your day there, but you should be forewarned that to truly appreciate it requires some amount of pleasure at the expense of your fellow man. And woman. On the other hand, it should be noted that the people featured here dressed themselves and left their homes to go shopping. So, in some ways, I think they can be held accountable.

Awkward Family Photos, on the other hand, often features the unfortunate result of people with some amount of creativity trying to create something unique with their family mementos. There are photos of people stacked like lemmings, fanned out like flowers, or in groupings that are neither well-thought-out nor appropriate for the occasion. The use of the word ‘inappropriate’ related to a family picture may strike you as odd, but after spending no more than 45 seconds looking through the collection, you’ll completely understand.

The site is really just a blog, with periodic postings of photos that are sent in, and sometimes with a headline or brief caption. Often, the photos stand alone and need neither, but every once in a while the sheer brilliance of the caption takes something simply awkward and makes it pure genius. Again, this is something that just needs to be experienced to be fully understood. But, as an example, see this gem of a photo titled “Eye Contact”: http://tinyurl.com/yznzx57

The site features a list of Most Popular, a regular “add your own caption” contest, and a relatively new cringe-inducing feature called “Behind the Awkwardness,” where someone who is featured in the photo will attempt to explain what was going on in the minds of the participants. For example, regarding a photo of two boys in hockey gear kneeling in front of their shirtless, pregnant mother, one of the boys explains, “This is a photo of my mom, my brother, myself, and my soon to be born younger brother. A family friend talked mom into having us all pose for this photo. It went on to win some sort of award in a Newport, R.I., photo show. It also hung in our house while I was growing up, which made for some awkward moments when friends came over.”

Occasionally, the site branches out into other awkward family moments, the most infamous being the Thanksgiving Letter offering one poor family member’s complete instructions on what to bring to ‘help’ with the annual feast. After reading it, you’ll find yourself even more thankful for your own family, regardless of how dysfunctional it might be.

Still, the true heart of the site is the photos. So I encourage you, whether you need a good laugh or an uncomfortable chuckle, to swing by and take a look. Or take a peek at the collected works in the upcoming book “Awkward Family Photos” (Three Rivers Press) by site gurus Mike Bender and Doug Chernack. It comes out in May.•


Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.


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  1. Great article and post scripts by Mike L (Great addition to IBJ BTW). Bobby's stubborn as a mule, and doubt if he ever comes back to IU. But the love he would receive would be enormous. Hope he shows some time, but not counting on it.

  2. When the Indiana GOP was going around the State selling the Voucher bill they were promising people that the vouchers would only be for public charter schools. They lied. As usual.

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  4. Jim, your "misleading" numbers comment is spot on. This is the spin these posers are putting on it. News flash, fans: these guys lie. They are not publicly traded so no one holds them accountable for anything they say. The TV numbers are so miniscule to begin with any "increase" produces double digit "growth" numbers. It's ridiculous to think that anything these guys have done has awakened the marketplace. What have they done? Consolidate the season so they run more races on consecutive weekends? And this creates "momentum." Is that the same momentum you enjoy when you don't race between August and March? Keep in mind that you are running teams who barely make ends meet ragged over the summer to accomplish this brilliant strategy of avoiding the NFL while you run your season finale at midnight on the East Coast. But I should not obfuscate my own point: any "ratings increase" is exactly what Jim points to - the increased availability of NBC Sports in households. Look fans, I love the sport to but these posers are running it off a cliff. Miles wants to declare victory and then run for Mayor. I could go on and on but bottom line for God's sake don't believe a word they say. Note to Anthony - try doing just a little research instead of reporting what these pretenders say and then offering an "opinion" no more informed than the average fan.

  5. If he's finally planning to do the right thing and resign, why not do it before the election? Waiting until after means what - s special election at tax payer expense? Appointment (by whom?) thus robbing the voters of their chance to choose? Does he accrue some additional financial advantage to waiting, like extra pension payments? What's in it for him? That's the question that needs to be asked.