We no longer live in a purely physical world. While everything we need to sustain ourselves (food, water, shelter, love) comes from the world of things (and people) for better or for worse many of us live as much online as we do offline. For anyone born after 1980 the wall between the “real world” and the “digital world” is thin, and getting thinner. Eventually, in a rapidly accelerating future, as wi–fi becomes ubiquitous and free, our refrigerators order beers for us when their shelves are bare and our cars drive themselves for us, I believe we will cease to recognize the distinction between online and offline. Such terms will become quaint artefacts of a time when living memories remembered things like rotary phones, or even no phones at all. Which is my roundabout way of getting to the point that how we present ourselves online matters. It is, in effect, another aspect of ourselves and just like the avatars in video games (or movies), these avatars represent our idealized selves.
We want to look young, smart, healthy, interesting, perhaps a bit mysterious, alluring, attractive and like someone you would want to know. We want to look like our best selves, (or in my case, like someone seriously into tribal head dresses – yes, it’s real). There are a few simple things you can do before uploading your next profile pic, to ensure that your headshot/avatar represents you as you wish to be seen and in your best light.
Here are a few tips to help you choose the best online profile picture to represent you in that brave new online world, that’s not so new anymore:
- Show some teeth! By that I mean use a photo in which you are smiling. No matter how awkward you feel smiling (and sadly, many grown ups do) humans respond to smiling faces way better than they do to non-smiling faces. If you are bothering to show yourself online at all, then presumably you want someone to see you and like you. Smiling helps. (If you need some help with smiling, read my post on the subject here).
- Use a photo taken on one of your good days: we all have good days and bad days. Don’t use a photo taken on a bad day. Simple as that. If you were having a bad hair/skin/attitude/breath day and your photos didn’t come out the way you wanted them to, do them again. The short-term inconvenience of taking another photo pales in comparison to the amount of time your photo will linger online. (You can read about preparing for a photoshoot here and here if you need a few tips before any shoots you have upcoming).
- Make the effort: when you are posing for your professional headshot, on this one day, no matter how else you choose to dress and live, make the effort to look your best. Get a good night’s rest, shave, do your hair, and wear nice, ironed clothes – preferably with collars. Better to be over dressed than under-dressed and in photos, a simple, classic, elegant look will never get stale and can serve you well across multiple online platforms.
There are countless other ways to make sure your headshot/avatar does what it is supposed to do for you online. Backing it up with some investment in the content you share is also important, but almost all relationships in business, or personal life, these days begin with someone you don’t know looking at your photo online. Make it a good one.