After a few years away from Facebook I reluctantly returned. One of the things that struck me is the change to the humble profile picture. Gone are the days of a passport style, head and shoulders portrait and hello to an often disturbing look into the personalities of people you think you know or more often than not you don’t.
I believed, mistakenly, that a profile picture was intended to help others identify you but how wrong I was. For many people it is about projecting an image of what they’d like to be rather than who they actually are. It has become two dimensional cosplay and a chance to let your inner exhibitionist out for a walk.
So if you are a shop assistant living with your parents this is your chance to look like a Goth hooker or a sponge. But more of this below.
In an attempt to delve into the phenomena I thought I would catagorise the main types of profile pictures.
The ‘I’m Available’ Shot
This is best defined as trying to put your best side out there. The most common example is an overhead shot looking down at cleavage and the shot is then rotated by forty five degrees to give it that fashion look. In fact it just looks like eleven million other shots. Best taken in the bathroom before you get too drunk, have a fight with your boyfriend and your mascara runs.
The ‘I’m in a relationship’ shot
Where me became we. The relationship shot shows the subject with their latest partner looking smug as if to say “look at us we’re happy….no really we are”. The implication is “I’ve finally found someone who doesn’t look like a convict” be happy for me. The main audience for this is shot the ex who is hopefully green with jealousy. Best taken at a glamorous event, foreign beach holiday or night club for maximum wounding effect. Remember to take it down in a month when the object of your affection has left you for your sister/brother/mother or best friend.
The ‘Which one is me’ shot
This one I find particularly strange. Often a shot of two women and the reader is supposed to know which one is Kylee or Simone rather than the girlfriend. So as you don’t know either person, you set about trying to decide which one is the subject and which is the stand-in friend. Is it the ugly one who has roped in her better looking friend to bolster her self-esteem or is it the prettier one who is trying to say “At least I don’t look like that”.
This is an almost exclusively female phenomena. Heterosexual men are too sexually insecure to pose with another man in case they are seen as gay. If they do pose with another man they need a prop to explain the shot. This is often the dead fish they caught, a replica of the Eiffel tower in beer cans or a waitress from Hooters.
The ‘I’m ready for my close up, Mr De Mille’ shot
If the subject is either very shy or staggeringly ugly they go for a close up of a body part. Often eyes or lips. Imagine if you went to a dating site and just saw an eyeball. You’d run a mile certain that the person in question was either a 300 pound biker, a serial killer or has suppurating facial warts.
The ‘Love me, love my shoe’ Shot
When the person is either too strange looking for even the eyeball close-up, the only recourse is some random object like a shoe. This is supposed to say ‘I’m a Christian Louboutin kind of a girl’ but probably means they are more like an old Nike found in a dumpster.
The ‘this is really me… honestly’ shot
I came across this one recently which I loved. The profile was for a woman named something like Amina Sutia Prakesh and she worked in a shoe shop in Jaipur. I’m guessing this isn’t her.
The ‘I’m so funny’ shot
An alternative is to use some wacky image you nicked from the web or took one drunken night, to show what a cool and crazy guy/girl you are. Fine when you’re seventeen but do remember to change it before you apply for a job. Nothing says ‘We’ll get back to you’ at a job interview more than your profile picture being a S&M dominatrix, a Gremlin or pretending to eat a kitten.
The ‘I used to be cute’ Shot
Having decided that the you of today isn’t really you, people decide to show pictures of themselves as babies in the mistaken belief they will then look adorable. As we know babies are not adorable or unique and so all the shot says is that I used to cry a lot and wet myself which come to think of it may be their status quo on a Saturday night. This technique also works if you are a bank robber on the run who only wants your mother to recognise you.
So there we have a it. A short boat ride down the river of weirdness that is profile pictures. What about my own profile picture you ask?You can see it in the About Me section above but naturally I cropped out the pink tutu and roller blades as this is a serious blog post.