A Profile Picture is Worth a Thousand Intentions

 “Profile Pic!” says my friend as she returns my camera.

yogi picture

Excited, I scroll through the pictures where I am standing in a strong yogic “tree pose” with the beautiful Moraine Lake in the background. In the picture, my fingers are reaching to the sky and I stand tall on my right leg, with my back to the camera. As I place the camera in its case, I can already imagine all the “likes” and comments that would appear under my picture once I upload it onto a social media site. I walk away from the scene without taking a second look at one of Canada’s most beautiful sceneries.

This picture reflects a number of intentions: I wanted to show off my yoga skills and remember the breath-taking scenery of Moraine Lake. The picture would become an anchor of one the best trips of my life. The picture was also an attempt to exemplify my “hoped-for-possible self”, which unfortunately, came at a cost.

The “hoped-for-possible self” is a socially desirable representation of what a person would like to be, or become, given the appropriate conditions. The intention is infinite when selecting a profile picture: one might want to present as adventurous (e.g., a picture of you rock climbing), mysterious (e.g., your shadow on the beach at sunset), outgoing (e.g., you at the lab Christmas party last year, holding your fifth glass of eggnog), or caring (e.g. playing with your new nephew). Social networking sites amplify the public process of identity construction and identity announcement. Clicking the “Like” icon, or adding a supportive comment such as “you look incredible!” are examples of identity placement – the act of endorsing another person’s identity announcement. When profile pictures are carefully selected and supported by others, an online hoped-for-possible self is born. In the online universe, identities that aren’t necessarily true in the “real-world” are actualized with the click of a button.

In my opinion, the picture is ideal for my online profile as it reflects my love of travel and yoga. Yet, I continue to wonder whether the picture or any other of my profile pictures truly represent who I am. I wonder whether a single picture can really encompass an individual’s personality, likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. Undoubtedly, the opportunity we have to represent ourselves in various realms (i.e., the internet and the ‘real-world’) comes with its set of downfalls.

Most importantly, I realized that maintaining an online identity has bled into my everyday life. Living a dual life – online and in the ‘real-world’ – has taken me away from living in the moment, because capturing snippets of my experiences into pictures becomes more important than the actual experience. Looking back at the picture of me in the tree pose in front of Moraine Lake, I cannot help but wonder what I would have seen if I had taken another moment to indulge in the surroundings. Instead, I have static picture to remind me of an infinite number of moments, and many friends “Liking” it.

Averagely yours,

the candidate

originally published in http://www.cpa.ca/docs/File/Students/MindPad/mindpadspring2013/

References for this posts


6 thoughts on “A Profile Picture is Worth a Thousand Intentions

  1. It’s so true what you say about the careful selection of pictures to show this and that aspect of our personality! But to a certain extent, aren’t we applying this same ”construction of identity process” when we choose what clothes to wear, what amount of make up to wear or which band/artist we associate with?

    In real life, I feel we may not encounter eachother very often and in various situations… but we it seems we judge eachother just as much. In the facebook world, interaction possibilities are endless… what I mean is each click is an opportunity to discover more about a person… and to judge! And I think facebook ”likes” just gave us a simple-easy tool to voice out this judgement!

    I admit I often flip through friend’s profiles pictures to get a general sense of who they are… GUILTY! Yes even your pictures lol. But coming from an artistic background where we were coached to talk and analyse endlessly each and every aspect of an art work, I’ve come to see each and every person as an ever-changing work of art reflecting the present state of mind of an artist (the person in question). Every piece, color or accessory says something. Every choice or non-choice says something too. In that optic, every profile picture is part of a larger picture… and (you said it in other words) an excuse to boost our ego and show others how awesome we are!!

    🙂 keep up the good blog writing!

  2. It’s a lot easier to curate our FB picture gallery in order to appear one way or another, but a lot more difficult to actually go out in the world and be that person we want to be and that we try to portray online.

  3. I stopped carrying my camera around with me when traveling for the past couple of years. It happened after I realized how much it distracts me from spending time to carefully look at places.


    ps. Did I just see you at the Queen’s centre yesterday?

    • Ehsan –

      Yes, having a camera really takes me out of “the moment”. I remember my first Eurotrip, I was in such “aw” that I forgot to take pictures! I regret that now, but I have some very clear images and moments of my trip…also the pictures I DID take are fantastic!

  4. I have thought about this so many times in the past month. I unabashedly love Facebook for how it has connected me to my friends and loved ones during my times of travels and how it keeps me connected to those people I met during the travels. Without Facebook I would not have reconnected with a foreign friend when she resurfaced in the US. However there are many times I consider deleting it, at least from my phone. It takes up more time than it needs to in my life. I do spend a lot of time constructing this image on Facebook, much more carefully than I would or can in real life. I don’t really have an answer but I do agree that it can take you out of the moment.

    • Jennifer – Thank you for your comment. Yes, is seems like we have a love-hate relationship with social media sites. Everyone seems so much more exciting and happy on Facebook don’t they? And if they don’t we accuse them of fishing for compliments or looking for attention….can’t win!
      Either way, it is a part of our reality now, it’s up to us to give it the importance that we want. First impressions in real life (eventually) change, and perhaps that is true of what we put up on FB!

      Rana, the candidate.

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