Bio pics and a timeless question: “Who am I?”

Posted on August 21, 2012


Somebody, somewhere has done extensive research, a PhD even on this subject – the view of ourselves we choose to present to the world. ‘Choose’ is an important word in all this because just as you don’t always get to choose your first car, often your employer will control things like corporate mugshots.

So this post is very much about those shot selections you make. It’s something that instinctively most of us know is important.

OK, maybe those who don’t show their faces on a Facebook or Twitter have an excuse. Showing your first born or your company logo can be excusable on those social media, sometimes.

But on LinkedIn? Research shows engagement with someone who doesn’t have a photo is likely to be lower.

And the difference between good photography and a cropped photo of you from a wedding/on the beach/skydiving (trust me, it happens) is also significant.

In recent months I’ve found myself teaching courses on this very subject, mainly entitled How You Look Online. It’s fascinating. But this post isn’t about that nuance, about set and setting as some academics would put it.

Instead, consider someone you know well, meaning you know them in person. Now consider a photo they use online. Ever noticed when the two don’t exactly match up?

I don’t mean all of us wanting to come across as better-looking or more intelligent. Cue lots of chins resting on hands or fingers touching glasses. (Guilty as charged.) Surely everyone wants those things.

How about when someone just looks very, er, different to how they really are? Is that really how your friend sees him/herself? Should you say something?

If these seem like trivial questions I can only say I think they will become more important. More important as so much of what we do increasingly starts online, more important as all of us (bar the very young or maybe very old) have to be on social networks to get on in life.

The internet and social media in this way – among many others – force us to ask: “Who am I?”

(BTW I also love biopics as well as bio pics. Among my favourites are Malcolm X, Sid and Nancy, Bird and Raging Bull. Never really warmed to Patton.)

*untitled by john|tyler used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic (CC by 2.5).

Follow Tony on Twitter – @tphallett

Posted in: Social media, Work