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Like it or not, in order to be a member of the Internet community you need to have a profile. This may be an actual profile on multiple social networks packed full of personal information, or it could just be the persona you adopt and nurture in an online setting. Either way you’ll probably have a profile picture.

Inspired by Mark’s recent infographic How Your Profile Pic Is Damaging Your Online Personal Brand [INFOGRAPHIC] How Your Profile Pic Is Damaging Your Online Personal Brand [INFOGRAPHIC] These days, we are identified and judged more and more by how we appear to others on social networking sites. Sites like Facebook and Twitter allow us to brand ourselves in any image we choose... Read More showing what people’s personal profile picture says about them, I thought it would be good to hear how and why you chose the image that sums you up in just a few hundred pixels. That’s the subject of this week’s ‘We Ask [You] Tell Us’ column, your chance to inform us rather than the other way around.

This Week’s Question…

How & Why Do You Choose Your Social Networking Profile Picture?

There are an infinite number of choices open to you when choosing your social networking profile picture. You can use one of yourself, posed just for the occasion, captured off-guard, or drunk and pulling a funny face. You can use one of a celebrity, perhaps your favorite personality of the moment or one that suits your mood. You can use a graphic, a logo, a product, etc. Ad infinitum.

We already know the damaging effect of choosing unwisely, or even not choosing at all by just keeping that silhouetted Invisible Man-style non-picture on your page. But how did you come to the decision to use the picture you have staring out at the world and the Web right now?

I usually use a friendly picture of myself looking natural, but in advance of this column I switched to Burt Reynolds for a few days on Facebook. Why? Because 1970’s Burt Reynolds was the man, and I wanted to see what reaction he got. None, is the sad answer. Hopefully you’ll have better reasons for How? and Why? than I do.

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We Ask You… now You Tell Us. All comments will be digested to form conclusions in a follow-up post next week.

‘We Ask [You] Tell Us‘ is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps for your fellow MakeUseOf Readers. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf social media obsession with anonymity social media obsession with anonymity Read More is nothing without you.

Image Credit: Luc Legay

  1. Bizzy
    October 10, 2012 at 5:42 am

    As far as I see it, it's more of a suitability to the occasion. As an example, I'd always use a gentle, formal, professional-looking photo on LinkedIN, though I can let it easy with my Facebook.
    I use my facebook profile image as a media to portrays my passion as a biker and a traveller. Even though I change my profile image every fortnight, the theme remains the same (i.e. my enthusiasm for travel).

  2. msillegality
    April 30, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    It depends on what social network I use. I have a Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and probably some others that I'm forgetting. Facebook changes often, simply because I try to have my profile picture and cover photo reflect the changes in my life. My Twitter hasn't changed simply because I'm lazy. I also tweet pictures a lot, so those are how my followers track my life changes, etc. For Tumblr, I used a random photo I had when I set it up, and I haven't changed it at all. Google+ changes with my email contact information. Pinterest was another random photo, and Instagram changes with the pictures I post to the app itself.

    I feel like girls change things up a lot more than guys would. As a sophomore in high school, I feel like many teens are focusing on making friends on social networking sites and not on real, social graces in real life. In fact, one girl I met thru acquaintances accepts every single Facebook friend request she gets no matter who it is from. She does the same thing for her Twitter.

    I use social networks to meet new people (Twitter, Tumblr, Google+), stay in contact with friends (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), and share my personal interests (Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest). Needless to say, I change my profile picture depending on what network I'm on and how I feel.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 1, 2012 at 2:34 am

      Thanks for such a definitive response. Great name, by the way :)

      I must admit Twitter is the last site I think of changing my profile pic on too, which is strange as it's the one I'm most likely to meet strangers on.

      I think you're right, girls and younger people are definitely more likely to change pics often. That's a dangerous game to accept all friend requests on Facebook!

  3. Chris
    April 29, 2012 at 4:14 am

    I use my face in real life. I have no social networking, so it's all good.

    • Dave Parrack
      April 29, 2012 at 11:46 pm

      You don't use any social networking sites at all? How do you cope?!? ;)

      • Chris
        April 30, 2012 at 1:32 am

        Well I'm a sophomore in high school so that may even surprise you even more! Haha. :) When I had Facebook, I had 1,000+ friends on there. Adding on to that list, I had a Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, you name it. It was the norm for everyone to have one.
        During the beginning of 2012, I looked back on everything I could have done better in 2011. The only thing that phased me was my grades, my time spent during and after school, and why am I slowly becoming more lazy. My writing ability was horrendous and my common knowledge was becoming more...well actually, less able, in a sense. I was searching for the cause and it had always come back to, you guessed it, FACEBOOK. During school I was using the Facebook application on my iPhone. After school, I was on my laptop just pondering around for notifications. The time wasted on Facebook would accumulate to almost half the time, if not more, when I am awake. I had to deactivate my Facebook.
        At first it was dreadful. What was I supposed to do all day? I always went to my phone to use the Facebook app only to realize I had deleted it. I did the same with my computer. Sure enough, in about two months, the "Facebook syndrome" faded away. Now almost five months into not having ANY social networking, I am definitely more productive with my time. The benefits of not having any commitments to any social network, especially Facebook, is endless. Believe me, try deactivating for two weeks. It does the body good. When I deactivated, I became more human, less of the image I tried to portray on Facebook. I spend my free time reading novels by various authors, working out at the gym or at home, educating myself with Salman Khan's 'Khan Academy' (Which I learned about from your website in the "Five top websites" article a couple weeks back. Kudos to you guys for such a great listing!), working on my own business (I repair computers and am working towards my A+ and Network+ certification through CompTIA and MCITP through Microsoft), doing my homework in the sun on a's amazing. Another benefit is being able to actually talk. I gained better communicating skills because without Facebook, if someone needs to tell me something, they either talk to me in person or call me on my phone. I have to tell you Dave, try deactivating your social networks. It may seem like isolation at first, but in the end, it is the opposite. You will feel more human than ever before. I also DELETED my Facebook two weeks ago. I thought I may have come back to it, but I'm so much better off without it haha! Try it out man! :)

  4. Andre Hutson
    April 28, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I pick whatever takes my fancy at the time but it's usually a choice between some character from an anime, cartoon, comicbook, etc. or a picture of me(anything from weird to funny) or a piece of art.

    • Dave Parrack
      April 29, 2012 at 11:45 pm

      That's a diverse selection! Do you worry that the pop culture pics will be a hindrance in fostering a professional brand online or do you not care?

      • Andre Hutson
        April 30, 2012 at 1:07 am

        Well I try to keep the professional life separate from the personal as far as internet profiles are concerned so it is not generally an issue.

        But I must add that I live in Barbados and it truly is a small world here. It would be impossible to hide online from all of one's professional associates here.

        • Dave Parrack
          April 30, 2012 at 1:28 am

          I sometimes wish I had done that. It's too late to now separate the two worlds.

          It's interesting that a smaller real-world community still carries through online.

  5. Naveen Mv
    April 27, 2012 at 2:59 am

    I Don't think that there is a need for a boundary to choosing our Profile Pics ... The only thing that matters is our Liking :)

  6. Tonya Renee
    April 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    My current picture for all of my accounts is for simplicity only. I do believe, however, that a profile picture should be a reflection of who you are, what you do, your interests, etc... The best profile picture I've seen was a woman sitting in a pile of her favorite LPs, her entire collection of players shelved in the background.

    • Dave Parrack
      April 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm

      That lady had the right idea, very inventive. But most of us take the easy option, you're not alone on that score :)

  7. Christian Cawley
    April 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Many years ago I used to adopt a ying-yang emblem to accompany my typical online moniker "atomickarma".

    However as the Internet - or more specifically the WWW - has become more open via Facebook and LinkedIn and similar services and I have moved my working life to the web, it makes sense to pick a professional-looking image.

    So on Facebook for my personal account I have photos of myself and family members or particular things that I like, whereas everywhere else I attempt to look professional, one way or another.

    (In fact, the image I use in most places is about 5 years old, and possibly requires updating...)

    • Dave Parrack
      April 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      You mean you're not that young and handsome any more?

      I kinda those days. I used to have Auron from FFX as my profile pic. It's only been in the last couple of years I've tried to adopt a more-professional stance.

  8. J.P. Howde
    April 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I wasn't exactly spoilt for choice.

    I only really have a facebook page as a contact point for people who might have lost touch so it's really got to be a picture of me.

    Luckily I'm photogenic in that pictures of me look like me but unluckily I look like a cross between Keith from The Office UK and the less attractive (and hairy) of the hairy bikers.

    So it was a simple matter of going through the photos of me I have (which isn't many as I'd usually be taking them) and picking the one that makes me look least like Keith or Dave.

    • Dave Parrack
      April 26, 2012 at 5:43 pm

      I must admit your description of yourself made me laugh. Were you never tempted to use a picture of Keith or Dave instead? I was Jack Dee for a while after someone told me I looked like him.

  9. Anne Osman
    April 26, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I am known by two different names in two different cultures. My picture displays my the Arabic name, so that people in both hemispheres can recognize me.

    • Dave Parrack
      April 26, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      That's a great solution, and not bad for branding purposes either.

  10. Mark O'Neill
    April 26, 2012 at 8:26 am

    I am often in the habit of changing my picture whenever the fancy strikes me. Which is stupid perhaps because I should be sticking to one picture and leaving it, for online branding purposes.

    Perhaps changing the picture around just confuses people as to what image I want to portray online. But part of me is easily bored and I have this inner need to change things all the time, looking for something bigger and better!

    • Dave Parrack
      April 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      It's tough to stick with the same picture for a long time, especially across the whole Web and all the various social networks we all invariably belong to. Perhaps we're both just bad at online branding lol.

  11. gpvprasad
    April 26, 2012 at 4:44 am

    I chose my profile picture my photo. I rarely update my profile picture.

    • Dave Parrack
      April 26, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Once you find one that works it's often unnecessary to switch!

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