Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to Select a Profile Avatar Picture

People often wonder what to use as their profile or avatar picture, like for Facebook, GooglePlus, and other places online. Your profile avatar picture is what identifies you. It's your opportunity to reveal who you are.

Some like to use a cartoon, brand logo of business they own, abstract image, or old high school photo. Others use a group photo, where they are standing next to a friend or sibling. Some even use a baby photo. A musician might use the image of a guitar or synthesizer.

What's my recommendation?

Use a current photo of just yourself alone. Your actual self.

Preferably a smiling face with your hair done nicely and wearing appropriate attire. No sunglasses if you're a business person, since that is interpreted as "having something to hide".

Now let me rush right into saying this is not easy for me. 99.99999% of my photos look terrible. When I smile, I tend to look goofy. I struggle a lot with my profile avatar picture. It's not easy for me to practice what I preach in this instance. In fact, I think I look a lot better in sunglasses. But that's not the best image for a business person.

Why am I insisting on a real photo of your current self? Because it increases credibility, especially if you're promoting your expertise or skills, or want people to recognize you offline, in the real "meat space" world.

Trolls and cyber-bullies often use cartoon images, pirates, Hollywood stars, Einstein, and other celebrity photos or abstract images to conceal their true identity. When I see a profile photo or avatar ID that is not a current photo of the person, I immediately get suspicious. It DOES NOT mean that you're up to no good. It just makes me wary and cautious.

Plenty of nice people will disagree with me on this one. They prefer to use an icon that is not their real self. Some may fear stalkers or have other good reasons not to use their actual face.

Using a "younger you" photo, like you as a baby or high school student, may confuse people. Baby photos are especially unwise, as I myself don't want to friend or follow babies or little children on Facebook. I prefer to hang around people 18 or older in most cases.

A photo of yourself from many years ago may cause people to wonder if you're being deceptive, trying to make yourself look younger than you really are. It's not a real good policy.

I take a lot of photographs and do a lot of video filming. In almost every case when a person does NOT want their face to be public, there's probably a bad reason for their secrecy or "shyness". Not always. But frequently. I've known people who had warrants out on them, and they'd cover their face when I pointed the camera in their direction.

This is not an ironclad rule. There are exceptions. But consider what I say.

Use a current photo of yourself -- unless you have a good reason not to, for privacy or security concerns. A current photo of your real, smiling face will be considered more authentic, transparent, and honest.

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