I think that too many Internet users are careless about the content and quality of their profile picture. It’s an issue that drives me crazy. It has for years. Let me lay it all out for you.
It doesn’t matter which social network or online service you are using, selecting a good profile picture to represent yourself is very important. It’s the one picture that the people you interact with will see every day. For someone that does not already know you, this is the first image they will see of you.
As I write this, I’m thinking of a social network along the lines of Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, or Google+. Twitter is slightly different because it’s filled with a lot of parody accounts and people aren’t expected to post under their true identity. It’s not uncommon to see a lot of inanimate objects as profile pictures there. Therefore, I’ll exclude that from my decree of what a profile picture should contain because anything goes in the land of Twitter.
Let me take a moment to explain what a profile picture should be. A profile picture is a picture of you, and you only. Not your spouse, not your kid, and not your pet. It should be a picture with a single human being in it, and that human can only be you. Not a picture of you amongst a group of five people, or you posing with your best friend, or anyone else for that matter. Just you! The instant that you post a profile picture with your significant other, you have effectively jumped the shark.
In fact, I am friends with a couple that individually use the exact same profile picture of the two of them. Such behavior is not only gag inducing, but when either of them writes a post or a comment, it becomes a little confusing as to who wrote what I’m reading. Everyone should unfollow them until they are able to make better decisions for themselves.
I’ll mention some examples of ridiculous things that I’ve seen used as actual profile pictures. For one, a full comic strip. Yes, someone I know on Facebook used an actual four-pane comic strip as their single profile picture. I couldn’t even tell what I was looking at until I blew it up full-screen, let alone be able to read it. What would possess someone to think that this would be a good idea? Sheer lunacy.
If you use a generic profile picture such as a flower or a butterfly, the message you are sending is that you are unhappy with your appearance and have something to hide. Your friends can already see all of your other pictures, so you can go ahead and stop doing this.
I do not participate in any call to change my profile picture to show support for something. That is something I will not do. I don’t care how serious or unserious the cause is. A few times in the past, I’ve seen a trend in the month of May where some dope will put out a call on Facebook for everyone to change their profile picture to a picture of their mom for Mothers Day. What? Get real. Only a moron would do something like that.
This brings me to the worst type of profile picture of them all. Pardon me, expectant mothers, but using a sonogram photo is the absolute worst thing you can post as your profile picture. Completely unacceptable! When I read your posts, I want to see a picture of your face next to them. Not a blurred, black and white, two-dimensional x-ray of an underdeveloped baby that looks more like an unfinished balloon animal stuffed in a pillowcase. Stop this right now.
Your profile picture must be a perfect square. It needs to be the same number of pixels tall as it is wide. Please use photo editing software on your computer to create this exact square image before attempting to upload it to the social network. Do not use an existing photo that you uploaded eighteen months ago and attempt to crop out other people by using the shoddy online profile photo cropping tool. This ends up looking careless and sloppy.
When it comes to pixel count, do not attempt to use a picture that is a tiny 100 or 200 pixels. That image size may look acceptable in a comments section, but when someone pulls up your profile picture to see an expanded view, the result is a jagged, pixelated mess.
I need to toss in a disclaimer about my own profile picture. Every year, around October 30, I’ve been in the habit of changing my Facebook profile picture to the Halloween mask of Michael Myers. This is a clear violation of rule #1. However, it’s fun and witty. I only have it up for about two days, and I think it amuses people. It’s festive and I’ll allow it. Is that hypocritical of me? Yep.
I’m sure that the condescending tone of this blog post isn’t going to win friends or influence people, but I had to make it understood how I feel about the business of profile pictures. In my experience, people really need to get their act together.
I’m willing to go so far as to say that if I were in charge of my own social network, a.k.a. “Craigbook,” I would make it my policy to choose everyone’s profile picture for them. A pop-up box would appear that says, “I don’t trust your decision-making skills. I’ll choose from your existing photos one that I think is best for you.” Of course, no one would want to be a part of a service like that, but it sure would make for a pleasant online utopia, at least in my eyes.
PS — The domain “Craigbook” is not available. Believe me, I already checked.