The significance of a profile picture

It's safe to say we live in a new world now. A world populated by social networks, blogs, and other avatars. In an average day we can interact with hundreds of people from around the world, a feat that was simply impossible ten years ago. For the most part, these interactions take place in the form of text chatter, with no true understanding of the individual we're communicating with on the other end. Aside from conversational patterns, tonalities, and habits, our only sign to who we're talking with is a simple profile picture.

While most people take this ubiquitous feature for granted, the profile picture acts as an avatar and symbolic manifestation of who you are in this online world. Whether you use a photo of yourself, cartoon character, or piece of art, people come to know you as this image. It becomes the "person" with whom others identify your personality with.

For this reason, I rarely every change my profile picture. I will upload other images incase others are curious as to what I look like, but the initial profile picture is almost sacred to me. Changing it would almost be like changing myself. Conversely, there are some people who change their profile picture at least once a week. However, whether intentional or not, this repeated changing takes on the same essential characteristic keeping the same image. While their image is constantly changing, the theme, composition, and frequency of change is so similar that it almost feels like the image never changes.

Here's an interesting experiment. For those of you with large friends lists, especially ones with a majority of people you don't actually know in real life, scroll through the list and take note of how many of the people on that list you remember by profile picture rather than profile name. Then think whether you'd know who they were at all once their image had changed. It's just something to think about.

posted by Christopher Schnese