Thursday, December 11, 2008

Choosing Your Profile Pictures

Today I wanted to share something that I’ve learned over the past year on my blog. If you’re going to be a part of any form of social networking on the internet, you need to know a little bit about safety.

WAIT! Don’t stop reading. I know what you’re thinking. I don’t have to worry about internet stalking etc. because that stuff happens to the other guy. If that thinking is correct, then you are the other guy.

I’ve already posted about blogging safely, you can click here to read that post. Today I wanted to mention another item of social networking I had an epiphany about.

In almost every form of social networking I can find, it asks for some kind of profile picture. All you have to do is browse your files and upload a picture. Pretty easy, huh? But something I hadn’t thought about before was what kind of picture you should be using for your profile.

First you need to ask yourself what the purpose of the webpage is that you are about to post your picture on. Are you trying to promote a business or a book? Are you looking to meet someone or do internet dating? Are you trying to raise money for a charity?
For each of those questions, there is a different photo which could be used in your profile.
My profile on this blog right now is a close-up of me which will be used in my upcoming book. My blog is set up so that *hopefully* those who are visiting will notice I am an author and this is a writing blog. Now here’s the epiphany part—I don’t need to use this same photo for all of my social networking!

Why didn’t I think of this sooner? Just because it asks for a profile picture, doesn’t mean you have to put one of yourself up there. I have noticed many authors who actually put a picture of their book as the profile pic and I think that’s pretty smart.

You may also be wondering what got me thinking about this. Well, I’m a member of several different social networks—some of which have a public profile—meaning anyone can see the picture. Most social networks have circles within where you can find friends who share your same interests. But there are many people in these social networks who are just grazing, they’re not really into books or art or music, they’re into people.

This is what I learned the hard way. I don’t know if this will apply to men as much, but for a female, no matter what your age or marital status this is important. On those social networking sites which allow your profile to be viewed by anyone it is prudent and wise to post a picture of yourself that is not a close-up. Why? Because I have received several messages from people I don’t know saying my picture is gorgeous blah blah blah, can we be friends?

First of all, I ask myself why this person didn’t notice I was married in my profile and then I answer the question myself and get to the point I mentioned above. If you have a pretty picture of yourself and you are not internet dating, don’t post it as your profile picture. Instead, post a zany picture of you which would make it hard for someone to pick you out in public. You could wear a hat or sunglasses. You can also use special effects on your photos to make them look like cartoons or pencil drawings. You could also put pictures of your pet goldfish, your favorite book, a quilt etc. These are all things which will deter someone who is just browsing the net trying to find photos of someone to be “friends” with. Okay, my husband is still laughing about the suggestion to use a quilt as a profile picture, but nobody’s going to hit on a quilt, right?

Some of you will undoubtedly think I’m a little paranoid—that there’s no need for that level of safety for your own social networking. Have you heard the saying “better safe than sorry” ? I have and I’m trying my best to learn how to navigate our internet world and keep on the safe side.

This is just a small deterrent to the unpleasant messages you might come across while you’re surfing the web. But each small step leads to happier, safer social networking.

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