Is Your Photo Avatar Making You Look OLD?

Meeting people who you network with online for the first time face to face is always an amazing moment because your mind has created a mental picture of them based on your interactions. Unfortunately the online identity you develop for yourself and how it appears to you may not match what your online friends expect when they meet you, f2f, in real life.

Take for example KerryJ (who I had the great pleasure of meeting this week for dinner with Kathyrn Greenhill). KerryJ and I’ve been networking online for awhile, both share a wicked (evil) sense of humour.

Let me say I’m glad KerryJ told me this (& thanks KerreJ for letting me tell the story) — but apparently my photo avatar is making me look OLD. She pictured me a a much older looking person compared to the person standing in front of her. Now with my birthday tomorrow there is no way I want to look my AGE. She said in person I looked in my 30’s (which many people take me for) but my photo avatar makes me look in my 40’s (which unfortunately I am).

So here’s the offending picture:


I liked it because to be honest there are not many photos of me because I’m one of those people whose photos turn out like crap. And at least the photo looked okay.

This was my previous photo which I liked but felt made me look too bland:


Here’s what I looked like at dinner:


Developing Your Online Identity

Developing our own unique identity is an important part of being online which we don’t always appreciate when we first start setting up our online accounts. Personal connection is really important for interacting online. The better others can visualize you as a real person the more likely they will be to want connect and network with you.

1. Branding

Having the one online identity across all your accounts makes it easier for others to connect and relate to you. When starting out we often feel nervous about using our own identity but there are many long term benefits. Read Vicki Davis’s advice to educators on the value of using their own identity (take the time to read the comments also).

It’s amazing how often I network with people using sites like twitter, and their username is so unusual that it can take me months to realise “Oh that’s really John from John’s Blog and I love reading his blog.”

2. Sharing Your Human Side

Giving people a glimpse of your human side, warts and all, is important — this makes you human as opposed to a machine. Show people that you have a sense of humour, that stuff upsets you, that something exciting has happened….. Help them connect with you.

Take for example my post Vacation Without Internet Access? What The? — those readers who network with me a lot, know how addicted I am, were laughing at the idea of me not coping well without Internet access and know in reality that a break would be healthy for me. Others could relate because they’ve faced similar situations themselves.

3. Build Your Identity Using Variety

Text can convey your feelings, emotions and to some extent your personality but won’t help others build the visual picture of what you look like. Your photos means others can visualise what you look like to some extent e.g. no sense of height (I’m 167 cm).

I find twitter gives others a much deeper insight into my personality than blog posts; because I tend express more sides of my emotions and my interactions with others can be synchronous.

A voice to go with a photo helps further to create the mental image. But video is even better as it adds an entirely different dimension again — it helps complete the image. Kate Foy showed me the power of this at the end of the 31 Days to Build A Better Blog — thanks Kate.

I’ve created a quick video of me talking so you can check it out. If you are reading this in your feed reader — you might prefer to watch it on my blog — just press the play on the Edublogs image.

Check out Michele Martin’s post which has lots of great links to Tools and Resources for Managing Your Online Reputation.


So what do you think? Should I change my photo to the one from dinner? Perhaps I should mix them up to keep you guessing?

How do you create your online identity? Have you found mental images you have created been considerably different from the real person when you’ve meet?

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