How & Why Do You Choose Your Social Networking Profile Picture? [We Ask You]

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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 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.

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 is nothing without you.

Image Credit: Luc Legay

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Comments (24)
  • Bizzy

    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).

  • msillegality

    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

      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!

  • Chris

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

    • Dave Parrack

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

    • Chris

      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 hammock…it’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! :)

    • Dave Parrack

      1,000 friends? That is a lot. I’ve never had more than 120, and have now pared that down to 80 something.

      I agree with a lot of what you said. I would be a lot more productive if social networks didn’t exist. But then I’d lose the capability they provide for communicating, networking, etc.

      I’m not ready for deactivation quite yet but I do try to get off the grid as much as possible. I’m glad decamping from Facebook etc. worked out for you :)

      You may find these articles of interest:-

  • Andre Hutson

    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

      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

      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

      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.

  • Naveen Mv

    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 :)

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.