What’s your Facebook profile pic right now? Why did you pick it? Today, I muse about what those choices say about us… if anything at all.
I just recently read a Slate.com article titled “Get Your Kid Off Your Facebook Page: Why do women hide behind their children?” The article was written well over a year ago (so I’m a little behind the curve) but I thought it bore some exploration.
My first reaction (to the title of the article even) was one of those, OMG! I know!, sort of moments but after thinking about it a little further. I found myself finding more and more reasons to fault the argument she’s making.
Author, Katie Roiphe, has loaded this argument from the beginning of the article:
If Betty Friedan were to review the Facebook habits of the over-30 set, she would turn over in her grave. By this I mean specifically the trend of women using photographs of their children instead of themselves as the main picture on their Facebook profiles. You click on a friend’s name and what comes into focus is not a photograph of her face, but a sleeping blond four-year-old, or a sun-hatted baby running on the beach. Here, harmlessly embedded in one of our favorite methods of procrastination, is a potent symbol for the new century. Where have all of these women gone? What, some future historian may very well ask, do all of these babies on our Facebook pages say about the construction of women’s identity at this particular moment in time?
What struck me about this was how narrow this reading feels. Sure, women are on Facebook. Sure, gender roles are bound to play out differently on Facebook than they have in other communities. But that doesn’t limit who is using Facebook to construct their identities and I think the comparison is far more interesting. Would Friedan be rolling in her grave? Or would she be pulling up her own profile to see what she could do with it?
Let’s look at a few sample pictures!
The first person I thought of out of my friends on Facebook who has a baby pic on their profile is my friend’s Randi and Josh.
Yes, Randi is a self-constructed identity as mother kind of girl. Well, what about the father? That was my next step, and here is his pic:
What? A baby? The same baby? Except this time she’s all adorable face-palming?
The point I’m making here is that both people are choosing to identify themselves on their profile in this way for a reason. They’re first time parents. They had an exceptionally stressful first few months, as documented on Randi’s blog, and I’m having a hard time understanding why there’s anything wrong with them celebrating their lives as parents by posting some pic on their profile.
No, I don’t think women (or men for that matter) should only identify themselves through their children. However, both men AND women absolutely have the right to identify that as an aspect of who they are and I don’t think it’s fair to judge anyone on just ONE Facebook profile picture because: guess what, you can always change your picture.
*p.s. here is our self-identified mom’s new profile pic:
So, I really started paying attention to what we can read into these pictures and how. And here are some rules I came up with to think of before you start rolling your eyes at another Facebook Profile that seems to harm someone’s self-made on-line persona rather than help.
Some rules to keeping it positive in your profile pics 🙂
- Don’t overthink your profile pic! My example of this is my friend Vanni, here’s her picture:Is she an amateur hockey enthusiast who just saw a Kalamazoo game? Does she worry about being Asian and proliferating the stereotypical use of peace-signage? Is she hipster…. is this all somehow ironic? We may never know! And it doesn’t matter!
- Be aware of your adspace! My example is… MY profile picture:Aw… isn’t self-promotion cute? The more we hear about Facebook and social networking sites, the more we realize that they are places to actively promote what you’re interested in. I’m my-own-blog-obsessed, but profile pics have been used to promote political campaigns (remember when everyone seemed to be Facebooking for Obama but Shephard Fairey-izing themselves?) and more.
- Make sure your picture is (about) YOU! My examples are pictures from two more friends, Katie and Laura: The first is a pretty classic Facebook picture. But I have to say, it’s still one of the most reasonable. If you’re a social person (which my friend Katie is) it makes sense to “identify” yourself with friends.
The second, is the epitome of making sure a picture is all about you. This lady loves colors, and tie dye, and math. Now, some people might regret this picture in 50 years but I guarantee you that this lady will not. And isn’t that was Facebook is about? Not regretting what you do?
That’s it for now! This may be a bit jokey but I think it’s serious too. Be aware of how you’re choosing to identify yourself, or live with the consequences 🙂