Social networking is exactly that, it is networking in a social manner – albeit virtual. It has become standard for all online social media platforms to encourage and allow people to have a profile picture.
Allowing users to depict themselves is another way for users to show their individuality. It is also a great way for people to be able to find their friends, especially on large social media platforms like Facebook. When you type in a friend’s name there could be hundreds of them using the platform, but when you can see the profile picture it makes it much easier to make sure you pick the right one.
The Profile Picture
Whether you are using Facebook, Instagram, Youtube or Twitter – nearly all social networks will allow and encourage you to have a profile picture that depicts only you. Some platforms are stricter than others with what is and what isn’t allowed in your profile picture. Some allow pictures of anyone or anything on a user account, whereas some enforce guidelines that require you to use a picture of yourself and nothing else.
Profile pictures are the first thing we see when we see a new account, and the saying a picture speaks a thousand words is very true in this case. No matter how much you write in the ‘about you’ section of whatever platform, the profile picture is still going to be the first thing people see about you.
Since the early days of social media when MySpace and Bebo had the majority of the market, profile pictures have been a key part of using and trusting the network. When Facebook took over the market majority, it kept the profile picture idea going – allowing users to show themselves how they want to be seen to world.
There has been a lot of controversy regarding social media and how people portray themselves. Posting profile pictures that are heavily edited and no longer look like themselves and posting photos onto the site that portray a life that is better than reality.
In most cases there is nothing wrong with people wanted to seem happier to other people than they really are. There is also no problem with people trying to look ‘perfect’ on their profile pictures. The controversy comes from people who disagree with the concept of twisting reality to portray a ‘fake’ life.
There are numerous cases of people reporting depression from struggling to look perfect to look like their friends on Facebook and other networks, when in reality they already did – it was just over-editing that distorted people’s views.
There are other downsides of profile pictures too. When people have the option to add any picture they want, there will always been people who abuse it. Regardless of what the guidelines for profile pictures are there will always be some people who can’t resist posting adult or inappropriate content as their profile picture.
Some people might find this funny, other might just be a little annoyed. For some however, this can be considered seriously offensive. Children from the age of thirteen are allowed to use most social media platforms which means that they will also see any offensive material that is posted. Most parents would agree that they do not want their children to be exposed to inappropriate content on the internet, especially not on trusted sites such as Facebook or YouTube.
Nearly all social networking sites do have filters and reporting features in place which means that almost all adult content is removed from them quickly, however is often viewed by hundreds of users before this happens.
To prevent users from posting adult photos as profile pictures then many people are suggesting that social media platforms begin to utilise stricter guidelines for profile pictures. Many professional websites fun facial recognition software on uploaded photos which means that only photos that depict a face-on photo of a face only. This doesn’t stop users from posting other people’s faces as their own, but it does stop people from posting adult photos online as their profile picture.
The problem with implementing filters that only allow faces is something that many people don’t actually like the idea. Some people say that they should have the right to use Facebook or Twitter without having to publish a picture of their face. Other people may have pages that are dedicated to businesses and not individuals. These pages often have logos instead of photos. Introducing a filter which looked for faces would mean that they would no longer be able to use brand logos as their profile picture.
The debate over the best option for profile pictures has been going on since the beginning of social media. It is likely that with so many options are arguments on each side, the debate will continue to go on for a long while still.
As with all controversial issues regarding social media, the platforms are likely to keep changing guidelines.
Twitter Makes The Next Move
Twitter is implanting the next big change with profile pictures. They are removing their iconic ‘egg’ picture that is the default when no photo is uploaded and switching to the greyed out silhouette that we have come to loathe from Facebook and other platforms.
The idea behind removing the egg is that more people are likely to add a profile picture as the egg picture itself wasn’t really so off-putting. The grey silhouette is more likely to push people to change to a photo themselves.
Many people are asking why Twitter has changed their default profile picture and why it will encourage people to upload their own. The grey silhouette is associated with unused or deleted accounts on other platforms such as Facebook, whereas the ‘egg’ is known to be twitters default and therefore people don’t look twice. Because of association with other platforms, people are likely to want to remove the silhouette from Twitter and replace it with a real profile picture.