Typology of a Facebook Profile Photo

It seems that there are as many different approaches to the Facebook Profile Photo as there are people on Facebook. I have attempted to classify these different approaches. Of course, which method you choose depends entirely upon how you intend to brand yourself (and possibly your company).

The Old-School Facebook Question Mark
The Old-School Facebook Question Mark

The Question Mark

The question mark is undeniably old-school Facebook. The Question Mark was the default profile photo for quite some time, but to have it as your profile photo today means that you specifically uploaded and selected it. The Question Mark is just about as useful as it’s modern equivalent.

The Mystery Man
The Mystery Man

The Mystery Man

I’m unsure exactly when the Question Mark was phased out, but it has since been replaced with a white on blue silhouette of a Mystery Man. Perhaps this is the same Mystery Man that inhabited the header graphic of Facebook past. Regardless, this bad hat-hair denizen of Facebook masks the true identity of the profile owner allowing the entire community to assume they are a creepy, overweight, drooling stalker.

The Pet Photo

Usually taking the form of a Chihuahua, the Pet Photo tells the world that this animal — regardless of what it may be doing — is cuter, more lovable, and certainly more worthy of prime Internet real-estate than the owner could ever be. Usually people don’t try and reconnect with the animals of high school friends. Although I hesitate to put them here, Children Photos are in this category as well.

The Poster

Originally, this was titled “the activism poster” which gives a sense of what it’s about. Generally this profile photo belongs to a person who has sold their soul to a particular cause (this week at least). Sometimes this takes the form of “save the planet” type posters, overtimes it’s a poster for a band. Also being placed in this category is the profile photo of a funny sign, a band logo, or any other graphic. Most of the time the chosen graphic has nothing to do with the profile owner.

The Friends Photo
A particularly awesome example of The Friends Photo

The Friends Photo

Typically this is two people in a photo, with their arms around each other. Perhaps they’re a couple, or maybe just friends. Regardless you — as someone interested in the profile — may or may not have any idea which of the two people the profile belongs to. This is particularly problematic when trying to answer the question, “who is this person and why am I friends with them?”

The Cut-Out-The-Friend Photo

Same as above, but with the (ex)friend cut-out. Although this does make it easier to figure out who the profile owner is, the photo is very awkward. This is often seen immediately after a break-up or falling-out.

The Random-Person Photo

We don’t know who they are or why they are on your friend’s profile. About as useful as the Mystery Man.

Stick Figure Profile Photo
Stick Figure Profile Photo

Stick Figure

For some reason, the profile owner does not want you to know what they actually look like, so they decided that a hastily drawn characiture would suffice.

The Wedding Photo

Despite the fact that their wedding was three years ago, this person insists on using photographs from their wedding. Perhaps they think they looked the best then, or perhaps they’re already trying to hold onto their marriage. Whatever the reason, the rest of Facebook is over it.

The Old Photo

The Old Photo can take two forms. The first is the baby-photo profile picture. While it may be cute, the profile holder looks nothing like that anymore thereby making this profile photo useless. The second is the drivers’ license approach to profile photos — that is, either keeping the same photo up forever, or using a photo you found from “just a few years ago” when you weighed 10 pounds less.

The Headshot

This is the professionally done headshot that makes the person look like a real estate agent. This is typically their one and only profile photo.

The Casual Snap

By far the best Facebook Profile Photo is the Casual Snap. This is a relatively recent photograph of solely the profile owner. The photo is candid, decently composed, has even lighting, the owner is at least mostly dressed, and there isn’t a hint of red plastic cups anywhere.

Think your profile photo defies categorization? Let’s put it up for a vote.

3 thoughts on “Typology of a Facebook Profile Photo

  1. You forgot about the “recent-snap-that-shows-you-engaged-in-a-hobby-but-isn’t-very-candid” subcategory. A good handful of my Facebook friends are dressed in ski gear posed in the snow, or rocking out on an electric guitar in their profile photos. Then there’s the “headshot-but-dressed-up-in-a-kooky-way-because-this-shows-a-bit-more-of-my-personality” profile photos. They’re leftover from Halloween, or a revue you were or something of that nature. You yourself have a handful of these, even!
    Then the ever so popular “I-shot-this-with-my-webcam” variation on the headshot. These are for the hardcore Facebook whores, and usually change once or twice each week because the person who the profile belongs to would drop to the floor, start having seizures and foaming at the mouth if they went more than a day without updating their profile. This person typically shows up in your news feed on a daily basis, even if you didn’t select the “more about this person” option. This sort of photo will often even appear as a too-close shot of the person, or a random body part, just to mix things up.

    Then, in sort of an obscure category, you have the “I-am-or-my-friend-is-a-professional-artist,-here-is-a-very-true-to-likeness-drawing-painting-whatever-of-me”. I know two people with these. I must admit, I am a little jealous. These profile photos make the “shot-by-a-professional-photographer-headshot” look so unambitious by comparison.

  2. And one more, the person who uses a photo of their child instead of themselves. This to me says, “I am my child. They are me. I do not distinguish.”

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