Judging from a profile picture

bassimsmile profile image Bassim RAJI ・1 min read

Last time I discussed with my girlfriend how a profile picture can make you judge someone and I wanted to know other visions.


markdown guide

People's biases are in full force based on profile pictures. Even when we're aware of those biases and believe we control them. It's very well documented. This fantastic blog post by Julia Enthoven is my favorite on the topic, because it's a first person testimonial about the immediate, measurable effect of simply changing her profile photo at work.


That blog post is really good. As far as gender-changing goes, I can attest to that - back in the '90s, women I knew complained of this sort of harassment and the next thing I signed up for which had chat I used a traditionally female name to see for myself. It's been going on as long as people have had a way to shout anonymously, and you don't even need a profile picture to get the abuse as long as there's some indication you're a woman.


Chances are, if you leave your avatar as whatever the service your using's default is, I probably am not going to want to talk to you. Usually, if you're not going to take the 5 seconds necessary to project a personality, you're not going to project any personality in the rest of our interactions.


I'd say due to the prevalence of trolling on the web, there are definitely some heuristics people use to quickly recognize spam/trolls. The more you look like a spam/troll account inadvertently, the worse I'd say.


but like for example when you see my profile picture how do you describe me or think at first sight? like if it's not a human face for an example or no real character or a draw...?


For me the hierarchy of judgment is something like:

profile pic -> name -> typos/grammar



I think everybody responds to human faces. Whether I'm aware of it at the moment or not, profile pictures with faces make me feel like I'm talking to another person more, even if the face is just a drawing.

With your profile picture for example, I know it's Naruto, but I mostly just see a smiling face and it makes me feel like I'm talking to a friendly real person.

It's not logical, but I think faces and facial expressions are kind of hard-wired into our brain and trigger emotional responses without even realizing it.


Got you but for example, I have a situation if putting a real picture and this person is, for example, angry naturally (like he has an angry facial naturally or something ) or like he looks scary you will automatically put him in the scary or weird list or something because your brain told you that ?


Maybe I would read their comment in an angry voice in my head? I think seeing a face of any expression has a comforting effect though.


Interesting Topic! If you have a portrait of some kind then the comment looks like a speech-bubble to me. The message can be perceived differently, based on the facial expression on the avatar. That's why I try to have as little "attitude" in my profile-pics. I used to make a new one each year, but somehow I settled on this one since 2016.


I always appreciate avatars in social media, it's some of the closest to character you can get that's projected beyond their diction. Depending on the avatar you can tell if someone is a troll or not, or what interests they have.

Like I see your avatar, and I know you probably like quality anime, and you might be fellow weeb (believe it) 🤘

It helps when someone has a very specific avatar of imagery that represents a group that I don't want to interact with, or I know I'll have more friction communicating with. It also helps to diminish the power of their message if they decide to spew negativity.


Of course people will judge from your choice of picture - or your choice to not have one.
One of the dangers of services like Gravatar is that you sign up for something using one of your non-important email addresses and don't notice that it's the one you set as a picture of yourself dressed as a pigeon five years ago until you hit send on that important message to a potential new employer...


I hardly every set profile pictures. A profile picture is one snapshot in time of what is probably a very complex being. And what I chose to say in that moment by that one picture may not reflect anything I am or want to convey in the future. I find it hard to decide, and I end up with a picture that says nothing but "here is what my expressionless face looks like". And then how often am I really going to repeat the decision process? My Google profile picture is from 12 years and 2 jobs ago. Although I guess my face hasn't changed much since then.

I'm overthinking it.


yeah this is my problem too so I end up with a picture I've been doing in all my social media or any site I've registered in it