One Avatar to Rule Them All (or Not)

New Flickr AvatarIf you use any kind of social media at all, you’ve been presented with the opportunity to set up an avatar, or graphic representation of yourself, that will show up with any activity you do in that network. Because so often our use of these networks can put us in contact with people we never actually meet, that icon can become the only visual representation of who we are that our connections ever see. Careful attention to the image can be an important part of securing and framing your online identity.

A quick perusal of my social networks shows several types of avatars:

  • The professional photo
  • The “I’m photographing myself in front of the mirror” or “I’m holding my camera out in front of me” photo, usually given away by the presence of the camera itself or part of an arm
  • The iconized image, such as something made through the fun “Mad Men Yourself” webpage
  • The impromptu snapshot that ended up working well
  • The photo that includes you with your family and/or pets
  • The photo that includes your family and/or pets but not you
  • The something-else image that is not you but represents you
  • The fake-out image that is not you or doesn’t represent you at all
  • The default avatar that shows you didn’t set up any kind of image, such as Twitter’s egg avatar

One of my friends told me recently, “what everyone really wants is that casual-but-I-look-fabulous-fun-and-professional photo they can use anywhere.” And I think she was right, at least for social networks that are chosen for partially or primarily professional communication.

So let’s hear from you: how did you create and select your online avatar(s)? Do you consolidate and have one image for everything, or do they vary based on the context in which a given social network is used?  If you’ve got that perfect avatar, how did you get it? Let us know in the comments.

[Image Creative Commons-licensed / Flickr user minifig. HT to @katystigers for the topic suggestion.]

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