A Teen Speaks: What does your profile picture really say about you?


Choosing a profile picture is no easy task. We want something that actually represents us as people, right? I mean, just because you like your new kitten doesn’t mean you’d make your profile pic one of it, or even one of you two together. In fact, definitely not one of you and a cat; people will probably think that you’ll grow up to be a crazy cat woman, if you’re not one already. Unless, of course, that’s the look you’re going for.

Profiles are all about conveying identity and a profile picture plays an important role in that. However, we must remember that a profile picture is one that is chosen by the individuals themselves and thus it is critical that we read between the lines to ensure we get an accurate representation of them. That being said, there seem to be a few types of profile images that appear in my newsfeed time and time again, so I have narrowed them down to a list of my top 5 profile picture types.

The Selfie

A self-taken photo usually displayed by twelve year olds (or those who are twelve at heart) and often accompanied with a pout or duck-face and completed with a not-so-subtle head tilt. They’ve become so common on social media that we don’t even batter an eyelid at their appearance. Still, should we think about it, there’s something almost unsettling about tweens posing presumptuously in front of a camera, taking shot after shot in this manner. I know the majority of them are harmless, but I personally have never been able to fully embrace the selfie trend.


The Athlete

A favourite among teenagers and young adults in my area where local football dominates the lives of many, particularly those directly involved who seem to consider the sport as significantly more important than many other aspects of their lives. And when I say football, I mean Australian Rules, but I’m sure this example is applicable to any community with a local sports team. And it definitely goes beyond muddy boys kicking a funny shaped ball through some posts on a grass oval. Motorbike riders love this profile picture too. Any chance for someone to show themselves being active and getting muddy at the same time, I guess. So, what does it say about you? You own a motorbike? Great. You can kick a footy? Awesome. Now we all know. And now we all associate that with you, which is fine until you no longer want to be ‘Mark the Motorbike Rider’ or ‘Frank the Footballer’ or even ‘Natalie the Netballer’. Then what are you going to do?


The Cutesy Couple

A photo says a thousand words and the couple in the photo sure do look happy. In fact, they look perfect for each other. There’s no way anything would ever come between them. Until it does, and they break-up. But that’s not the point. This is a photo of two people in a happy relationship, showing that to the rest of the world, or at least to their social media friends. Which is fine. I’m all for it and totally a culprit. Why wouldn’t we want to represent ourselves through a photo of ourselves with the person we spend the most time with? The issue comes behind the photo. An image is a snapshot, a single moment. Anybody can hold a pose for a moment. But what happens when someone’s only one half of a couple and no longer a whole individual themselves? Does the photo show two people legitimately smitten, or is that what they want you to think?

The Party Animal

Alcoholic beverages and tipsy people crowd the frame. The individual is present somewhere among the mess, usually with a grin that conveys the message that they are in fact having the time of their life. It shows everyone that the person does actually have a life and friends and events to go to. It sure does make someone seem cooler, but again this is one photo. How do we know if they’re actually having a good time with their friends, or a less-than-average time with some acquaintances? I have certainly been to a party out of obligation and had photos taken where I genuinely seem to be enjoying myself, when in reality, if questioned, I would be unable to honestly say that I had a good time. As I’ve said before, it is all about what we choose to display. We are in control of what we show people and ultimately building our identity.

The Traveler

So you left the town once? Well done. Oh what? You actually left the country? For two weeks? How incredible. Lucky you got a photo to show everyone how wise and worldly you are now.  Despite spending 50 weeks in their own country, it is pretty much guaranteed that a photo taken elsewhere will make an appearance on their profile, and often as their display picture. And fair enough. I mean, why would anyone want to see the same boring, day-to-day activities? Famous landmarks and tourist attractions are so much more interesting and they show just how bold and adventurous and exciting we really are. Plenty of my own profile photos have been taken on holiday, overseas or otherwise. However, I honestly believe that the line between sharing excitement and rubbing it in is very fine. That sun looks fantastic, it’s been pouring rain here every day for the last week but I’m happy for you. Honestly.

After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. One little image is meant to sum up so many things (who we are, what we are like, even what we like), so it is no wonder many of us put careful consideration into this specific decision-making process. No pressure.

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