SKIP THESE OPENING WORDS IF YOU’D LIKE
I hung out with a guy in high school whose mom was crazy. He had warned me and I didn’t believe him because a lot of kids back then said their moms were crazy. But when this guy said it, there was a certain matter-of-factness to the claim instead of the typical teen creed: “My mom is crazy because she won’t let me do whatever I want.”
After meeting his mother for the first time, she seemed nice, friendly – a little anxious – but nothing out of the ordinary.
Until one day I noticed an unusual pattern in their home: the living room furniture was arranged differently every time I visited. Then there was the time she told me about her pet parrot that I knew didn’t exist. I was eventually convinced that her son was right – she was certifiably nuts.
I recently looked her up and saw her LinkedIn profile pic. I was shocked – absolutely shocked. There she was, just as I knew her – plus a decade or two – and perched on her shoulder was a very real parrot. Her profession? Interior designer.
Which brings me to your profile pic.
My profile pic.
Everyone but my friend’s mom’s profile pic.
Let’s begin with mine.
I’ve been experiencing major anxiety lately over my profile pics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and all the rest. I have wanted to change each of them since immediately after last changing them, because they weren’t right. I wasn’t comfortable adding them as my official profile pic. Somehow they didn’t represent “me.” But because of my experience with my friend’s crazy mother who changed the living room furniture every few days and who may not be crazy after all, I don’t want to change my profile pic too often, lest I become just like her (the crazy version).
So I have to patiently wait. And I can wait. Choosing a profile pic is the best kind of thing to wait for. Because it’s probably impossible to get just right.
The essential question we should all ask ourselves when choosing a profile pic is:
Who am I?
Who am I, really?
Which picture do I show that best captures the essence that is me?
And what about you? Who are you? We all want to know, and your profile pic will go a long way toward answering that very question.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR PROFILE PIC
Determining who you are isn’t the hard part. It’s actually only 5% of the finding-your-profile-pic job. So don’t worry too much about that aspect of successful profile pic hunting.
WHY YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY WORRY ABOUT YOUR PROFILE PIC
The other 95% of the job you should perform in selecting a profile pic is calculating what OTHER PEOPLE will think of you when they see it.
In person, you get less than five seconds to make an impression. On a profile pic, you get 0.5.
Everyone who sees your profile pic will instantly begin sizing you up. No chance to improve your posture, smile, or show off your great wit. When you are reduced to a mere profile pic, there will be nothing you can do to stop their criticism, ridicule, and base feelings of carnal hatred.
It’s this aspect of profile pic choosing – the part completely out of your control – that I want to zero in on and become your profile pic consultant over the next few minutes to help you out. Assessing what hundreds, if not thousands and possibly more fellow humans will think of you when they see your profile pic requires effort, detachment, thoughtful reflection, intense psychoanalysis, and a creative imagination.
With over a decade of experience in profile pic observation, I have come to learn that we each fit into certain profile pic categories. Before I introduce a small fraction of them, I need to offer this introductory warning:
[That’s right, you just wasted all this time reading all the stuff above when you could have just skipped down to the part below.]
WARNING: YOU MAY SEE YOUR CHOSEN PROFILE PIC CATEGORY EXPLAINED BELOW. I HOPE YOU ARE OKAY WITH MY DESCRIPTION OF WHO I THINK YOU THINK YOU REALLY THINK YOU REALLY ARE FOR REAL
Below, I have identified at least 51 ways to express yourself through a social media pic. That’s right, fifty one categories. And you won’t believe me, until after you see them all, that there are tons more. We are quite complicated.
***FIRST, SOME HISTORICAL CONTEXT***
The earliest social media pictures were expressed by sketching a crude yet elegantly simple stick figure on a cave wall. We drew these pictures for various reasons, like to remind OONKA OONKA that before bedtime, she needed to floss.
Over time, stick figures were given some body, but these petroglyph sketchings were crude and unflattering with their symbolism, headdresses, and charm bracelets.
Archeologists point to these more fleshy drawings as the dawn of female body issues, which occurred right near the middle of the 23rd Dynasty of the Neanderthal Kingdom. This is the era when the phrase was coined by the female, “Does this loin cloth make me look fat?!” Not surprisingly, it was in this same era that marriage counseling became the first viable career choice outside of hunting and gathering.
The Egyptian papyri moved early civilization away from cave drawings (think desktop computer) to hieroglyphs one could carry around on portable papyrus (think smartphone). For reasons unknown, most drawings depicted the perspective view of someone from the side. Scientists have found that instead of calling it the “profile pic,” Egyptians called it the “profile profile.”
Drawings of yourself would have been readily available on papyri, but only if you happened to be a god, or if your head kind of looked like a hawk.
Imagine this: for many millennia, all of YOUR ancestors, the people that each ensured you now exist, never saw themselves in 4K video, a high or low res photo, or even a vanity mirror on the passenger side of a new SUV EX-L. Self-confidence back then was based less on how good you looked and more on the fact that you were still alive.
If I had lived back then I would have walked around thinking I was Ryan Seacrest or Michael Jordan, two men I look like in my mind. Thanks to the profile pic, every time I visit Facebook, which I’ve cut back to visiting only 217 times a day, I’m firmly grounded with what I actually look like.
Speaking of Michaels, what would Michael Jackson have looked like if there was no man in the mirror?
Today is so different than any previous age in time. Each of us has the ability to be known to all the world, via Facebook, Twitter, etc., by a single image. Put one image out there and boom, it’s all over Google, it’s being recommended to others, it’s being pinned on Pinterest, it’s the one that says “this is me, the 497th great-great-grandson of OONKA OONKA.”
So, what does your profile pic say about you?
See below for a small sampling of only 51 categories that your profile pic may or may not fit under. Let me know in the comments the best match for your category. It may also give you ideas of what or what not to use as your profile pic. There is also a link to my PayPal account at the bottom where you can pay me for an analysis of your profile pic. Proceeds will go toward that 13″ MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar I really want. It is so so cool.
1. Family Guy/Gal
This entrepreneurial person with spouse and kids runs a highly unsuccessful t-shirt business.
He thought he was being funny. He thought that time his daughter gave him all her dolls to hold was sweet. But since we weren’t there, our take away is this: stay far, far away from this man.
If you’re over 12 years old, don’t hold dolls in a profile pic. You might send the wrong vibe when a future employer is checking out your profile, unless you’re applying for that admin job at your local trafficking ring.
Everything’s fun to the open-mouth-laughing fun person. Everything. But the open-mouth-laughing fun person needs to be careful when commenting on someone else’s sad post.
4. Creepy Fun
Everything’s creepy about the creepy fun person. All the smiles in the world won’t take the creepy out of the creeper. If you’re gonna go creepy-older-guy-open-mouth-laughing, at least try to photoshop out the traces of inner-mouth saliva.
5. Funny In Every Way Except For My Profile Pic
Choosing a funny profile pic that others will think is funny is such a tough nut to crack. Most of the time your funny profile pic won’t be funny to anyone, even if you think it’s hilarious. Notice that most comedian profile pics aren’t funny. At all. Why is that? Look at Seinfeld, for example. Or Sarah Silverman. Or check out Steve Martin or Aziz Ansari. True, I only chose comedians with an “S” sound in their names, but that’s not the point. The same rule applies for comedians with lots of “Gs” in their name, too, like Jim Gaffigan and George Lopez, so now I’ve made my point. If professional comedians can’t make their profile pic funny then you shouldn’t either.
My Twitter profile pic is hilarious. I mean, not exactly hilarious. Thought-provoking funny. Something like that. No one has really asked what it means. I guess it’s not hilarious or that great. It could be so much better. I don’t know how it could be better. I wish I had a different Twitter profile pic.
6. Buff: Don’t Mess With Me
Be careful of the buff profile pic that includes other buff people. No one will know who you are if you’re mixed in with all the buff ones. Also a word of caution to you non-buff people who include a buff person in your profile pic because it will make you look even more non-buff than you already are.
7. Talented: There’s Only One Real Talent
We all know the only talent that is a real, bonafide talent is musical talent. You may be great at blackjack but that’s not a talent. A profile pic of you playing blackjack will make visitors think you have a gambling problem, not a real talent. Playing the piccolo is a real talent.
8. Professional: On the TEDx Omaha Stage, circa 2013
Yes, you’re the consummate professional. Always teaching, always inspiring, always leading by example. Your posts better not let us down.
9. Serious, depending on the level of furrowed browage
This is the only profile pic style that can come across as either intentionally or unintentionally funny. The furrowed brow is the key to pulling off the serious look. The more furrowed the brow, the less serious and more funny it looks. Your seriousness may backfire in proportion to the brow-furrowing. This guy is all business. That means he’s seriously serious.
10. Half of Face: You’re Hiding Something
Are you artistic or just plain shy? The half-of-face profile pic leaves unanswered personality questions unanswered. It also leaves unanswered whether the pic is just you trying to cover up that big zit on your right cheek.
11. Half of Face: You’re the Phantom of the Opera
12. Looking sideways: INTP Personality
Being pensive is one thing. But taking your pensiveness to your call center job? That’s going above and beyond.
13. Super hot (playing piccolo)
14. Attached (snuggling with partner)
This one screams, “Not only am I good looking, but I’m taken, and my partner is good looking, too!”
15. Sick: In More Ways Than One
It’s rare to find a profile pic of someone who’s sick in bed. But when you do run across this, know that their plea is both to seek pity as well as to push people away. “Feel bad for me,” and “I’m contagious,”are unique messages for the kind of profile pic we don’t usually see.
If they’re in uniform, you can’t help but praise the person for their military service, unless, of course, they serve the other team. The more militant the picture, however, like this profile pic above, you’ve gotta watch out. Like when this good soldier wishes you a happy birthday on Facebook while pointing a gun at your birthday greeting? That’s always a little unnerving. Now how do I respond?
17. Hardworking: Shovel Proves You’re the Genuine Article
Hardworking, fearless, determined, toughing it out in the cold –– these are all subliminal messages we receive when first viewing this kind of profile pic. That, and this person better slow down or they’ll have a heart attack. See “Cold Weather Snow Shoveling and Your Risk for Heart Attack.”
18. Important: Shovel at Groundbreaking Proves Nothing
Heart attack risk drops precipitously when your pic shows you holding a dedication shovel at a groundbreaking ceremony, though the risk of coming across as a shade-too pompous rises in direct proportion.
We wonder, “What are you running away from?” No offense, we all have our issues. We just wonder if you have more issues than we do, that’s all.
Nothing says sweet like a man fondly holding a furry creature. I won’t say the name of the creature in this post. I’ve banned the name of that creature from my blog. If you do a search on my blog of that word, you will not find any instances of that word. None. And I have nothing at all against cats.
Blowing a kiss in a profile pic screams that you are hereby awarded “Social Media Class Flirt [two thousand whatever the current year is].” When I blew a kiss on my last profile pic, I couldn’t help but wonder if it made me look a little slutty.
The way to achieve the seductive look is to stare directly into the camera lens with your mouth held partially open. What the “seductive” part of you doesn’t realize is that when the photo was taken, you weren’t staring at anyone, you were staring at a camera lens. So the seductive shot ends up looking a lot less seductive and more like someone who wants to devour camera lenses.
I’m not necessarily saying these gals are beautiful, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What I’m saying is the woman using this pic on her profile wants us to think this was the pinnacle of her beauty, so we should respect that and treat it as such.
Same principal applies for guys who want to look their most beautiful on their pic. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Is this your BFF? Which one is you? I always have a hard time with this kind of photo. I never know which one is which. It’s very confusing to have a profile pic with two or more people. Please avoid the two or more person profile pic, even if it’s with your BFF.
25. Insecure part 1 (picture with friend who is hotter than you)
Now lookie here. The wicked stepmother’s profile pic is with her beautiful step daughter! We knew she was wildly insecure all along.
26. Insecure part 2 (you no longer look as young as your profile pic)
This is me 120 years ago. I may or may not still look like this.
27. Insecure part 3 (you at your peak 30 years ago)
28. Insecure part 4 (nature)
I think you’re hiding behind that tree.
29. Distant (your body makes up <10% of the photo)
30. Age Defying aka Young-at-heart (your body makes up <10% of the photo)
There are so many ways your profile pic can reflect insecurities. Point is, examine your fundamental insecurities and do what you can to face them head-on in your chosen profile pic.
31. Sports fan
You want everyone to know your team. And that’s good. At risk, though, of alienating all of you sports fans, which make up 96% of the population, if you do not play for or are not employed by said team, and you wish for everyone to know you love that team, I’m curious as to why someone with absolutely no control whatsoever over the outcome of that team’s – never mind I’ll stop there. I love you all, sports fans. We’re different. Embrace the diversity of humanity and please accept me.
If this was your profile pic, no one would mess with you. Your word would be the last word.
33. Town drunk
And you’re proud of it.
And you’re proud of it.
35. A dentist
And you’re proud of it.
Since pride is your slogan, it goes without saying, you’re proud. This can also be the non-gay solidarity with gays profile pic, too. But avoid that if you’re not gay because then people get really confused.
This profile pic says you’ve experienced a life change and everything is wonderful. It also says to previous lovers, “Sorry, I’m taken forever.” If this is the fifth or sixth time you’ve put up this pic, and each pic is with a different partner, then it says to previous lovers, “Hey, how have you been?”
38. Happily married or trying to work it out
Loving pics with a spouse are signs of either marital bliss or marital trouble. The best way to prove your marriage is strong is to not have a picture of your spouse in your profile pic, because it opens up all these questions.
39. Gay married
Not only have you come out of the closet, both of you have. There are a few gay married pic options: the wedding cake like the one above, the marriage certificate signing, the hands with wedding bands, the vows. Whatever the profile pic choice, the gay married pic says to anyone who doubted you before that you are, without a doubt, pro gay marriage.
The cross, the star of David, the Koran, the temple – your religion is very important to you. You may be a zealot, which can turn people away from you in our increasingly secularized society. Know that you will be more respected if your profile pic shows you as a religious person than if you happened to be a serial killer or even an out-of-the-closeted Trump voter.
Do you love food? Do you love to take pictures of your food? Is food your profile pic? If you’ve answered yes to all of the above, then you are a foodie. If you’re a foodie and your profile pic isn’t a plate of food, then what are you waiting for? Get to it!
42. Body builder
I love this profile pic. It depicts a dramatic moment in body building.
43. Mormon missionary
In case you’re wondering, this guy is a Mormon missionary.
44. Successful Podcaster/Blogger in His Mind, Devoted Commuter, and Man of Many Distractions
This is my current Facebook profile pic. This is the one I’ve been hating since I first posted it. This pic is the primary reason I am writing this entire post. Sunglasses. Why did I choose a pic with sunglasses? Why did I think that would be a good idea? Whose picture covers their eyes with sunglasses? What’s wrong with me? Why did I do that? What was I thinking? I’ve been waiting to change it and I’m questioning if it’s still too soon. I could write so much more on the mental anguish choosing this pic has caused me. I do love seeing my son who is cropped out in this pic. The problem with including him, though, is I have three other children who probably now think this one is my favorite. As I tell each of them, they are all my favorites. But saying that only goes so far. “If you love me, why is he in your profile pic?” I could write so much more. But I think I’ll move on to the Fake Human profile pic instead.
45. Fake Human
We face so many challenges online, we even have to determine if someone who friends or follows us is real or fake. There are a lot of fake accounts going around, especially on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. I tried to find a fake human profile pic but thought it best to not include one, just in case the fake human ended up being a real person. Out of respect for the real people who I have thought are fake people, I will not include a pic here.
Let’s have a moment of silence for those real people we think are fake.
I love this shot. It’s beautiful, it’s sweet, it’s even kind of cute, and I’m not gay, I just genuinely mean that. Gotta love the person that makes this their profile pic.
Here’s a guy who has been on TV. He wants you to know he’s been on TV because it’s his profile pic. It is a defining moment for him. I find that level of confidence interesting, and would like to get to know him better. We’d have stuff to talk about. Most likely he would, but I would enjoy listening, which is why I place it in the “interesting-good” category.
Then there’s the “interesting” that is negative. “He’s….interesting,” she says, as she describes him to her friends. You never want to be called “interesting.” Especially by me, because that’s the only way I use it. Unless I think you’re interesting-good. This poor guy. If this picture is yours, I hope you’re flattered that I used your pic to describe several different profile pic categories.
Recognized by a few millions? Then you get to do whatever you want with your profile pic. Too bad the image above isn’t his profile pic because his actual profile pic isn’t that funny.
Here is the unfunny official Facebook pic (see the comedian part above about how comedians don’t have funny profile pics).
You show a connection with another country by interposing a flag image over your own. My advice: don’t keep it up for too long. The proper solidarity window is approximately 19 days. Peak solidarity time is 7.5 days. By 14 days most have changed back. After 19 days, it’s way over, no matter how good the cause.
You can try to be a meme, but always remember, words won’t replace the real you. Unless you’re Gene Wilder. And still alive.
And many more…
As you can see, I haven’t even scratched the surface. There are many, many more. For a nominal fee of only $99.99 you can pay by clicking this obnoxiously long link, a fee that breaks down to only a fraction of what you’d pay for a brand new Tesla, I will assess your own profile pic and tell you exactly what 95% of people will think when they give your pic that 0.5 second glance.
At this point of the post, I kind of feel like I need to close with…