For people of my generation who went to school in the early 70’s, the image above is probably typical. Even before we could read or write our names, most of us were encouraged to associate them with ‘our space’. I say encouraged but we had no choice. We were probably also encouraged to link that space with an image. I imagine there were some schools where that image was a self portrait, a family photo or a school mug shot Polaroid. In some cases I imagine that image and space was associated with gender.
We went along with this, we had no choice.
This was all aimed at us knowing what was ours and what was someone else’s and others knowing what was ours and what we associated with. We probably conformed to many other socially accepted norms related to our space and identity as we grew up.
As we gained our sense of self, we made choices about our identity. We learned it was possible to defy accepted norms, rebel and even disassociate with certain things, groups or networks. But we also made conscious choices to join networks and fit in. This involved conforming to some basics where we were again expected to identify ourselves. But this allowed us a choice.
Most social network profiles provide space for names, images and a summary. When we create an individual profile, we are expected and encouraged to provide personal content to create the optimum experience for interaction. We are expected to give something of ourselves as you would in any physical introduction; a handshake; a smile; a name badge. Most profile spaces encourage us to provide an image of our faces. That’s probably why they have a head and shoulder icon.
That and the names of some of the networks are a bit of a clue as to what is expected and to what we should choose.
Not all social networks may ‘need’ your photo. Like the school cloakroom, an associated image used on private or social profiles is fine. But maybe not on what I’d call professional individual profiles; LinkedIn, Twitter and definitely an office Intranet/Internal email/Instant message system if they are set up for facial images to be added.
The reason; it helps identify you and put a face to the voice. It increases being personable and is generally a more sociable way of interacting.
So why is it that so many of us think it is okay to leave individual professional profiles blank? Should we even consider the choice to opt out?
Are we generally shy? Did we just never get round to uploading the image? Are we happy to share our names and information but not show our faces? Are we missing the point and maybe don’t see how it might be interpreted?
Would we really hide our face when we go to a meeting?
I can’t talk for others and their choices or reasons for not ‘facing up’. There maybe a few good reasons but generally profiles without a facial image, whether deliberate or not, can give the impression people are leaving something out and there isn’t the full commitment to this network thing. Whatever the reason, I feel this is probably symptomatic that we are not yet consistently digitally/socially/culturally confident to say ‘this is me, I belong on this network, I own my space’.
Perhaps there should be more emphasis encouraging people to open up and share, to support them and in explaining the context of opting in rather than holding back. I’d like to see more people introducing their real person, and others encouraging them and acknowledging when they do.
We have a choice. Let’s opt in.
Call to action
If you read this and are an ‘egg’ or a ‘head and shoulders’ then please consider uploading your image.
If you have the opportunity to encourage someone you know to upload an image or time to show them how to do it then please do.
Be sociable. Share, and help others to opt in.
Image courtesy of rollonfriday.com