Posted by: Mark | August 18, 2009

Avatar Anxiety

(note to readers: this is going to be an extremely self-indulgent post. So be it.)

The avatar. A term understood only by the highest level of geeks in years past, it is now a common thought and consideration for all of us who engage in social media. Those who do it right spend a considerable amount of time picking their avatar. Let’s look at Twitter as a for example. When I go into my Twitter stream, there are a ton of words, but each set is preceded by a picture, and that picture is the only visual representation of that person that I get. In many ways I get attached to people’s avatars. They help me craft how I envision the person sounds, their intonation, and their style. Sometimes when people change their avatar, I get really pissed off. I’m not a huge fan of the “I look like a cartoon character” avatar. What the hell is up with that. Sorry but you’re not a cartoon character, you’re a real person who is updating Twitter, so out yourself by showing your face. I’m also not a very big fan of too-serious avatars. I’ll admit it that I’ve totally ignored people on Twitter because I think their avatar picture screams “I’m a pretty big weenie, but I take myself extremely seriously, and as such, I think I’m pretty legit but in fact I’m an even bigger weenie.” I won’t be mean and ID any of these people here, but I think you all know the types of avatars I’m talking about.

I write with such arrogance because as far as I’m concerned, I’ve got a pretty genius avatar. Feast your eyes:

First off, there is the setting. It’s pretty clear from the scattered cloudy background that this was a posed picture. This isn’t something I photoshopped to crop a picture down to my face…this is an authentic posed picture, taken in front of a pull-down screen much like Uncle Rico did in Napoleon Dynamite. And truth be told, this picture is my yearbook photo from last year, taken at the school where I teach.

Secondly, there’s the facial expression and the body language. It’s so boyishly joyful, yet so mockingly so. (Damn, three “so’s” in one sentence.) I’ve actually gotten my fair share of compliments over this picture. When people friend request me on facebook, it’s often accompanied with a note like “that’s the best picture I’ve ever seen,” or something else obviously true like that.

So why the anxiety? I’ve got the perfect avatar pic, but when I used this picture last year, I made a mental promise to myself that I’d update my picture every year with each new yearbook photo. I think it’s good to have a relatively timely avatar. I’m not a huge fan of people posting pictures of them that are 20 years old. It’s OK to be honest about your age. So, I am pretty convinced that I need to update my picture every year. I can’t rely on this photo forever.  And so I think my problem, at this point in the post, is self-evident. How the hell do you top a picture like this? What am I supposed to do? I don’t want to go over the top, with something like a Mexican wrestling mask or anything like that. (Which, while possibly funny for a yearbook, would actually be really weird for an avatar. In fact, I re-neg my statement about the yearbook…it’d be weird in both contexts.) I want to remain simple and organic, with no reliance upon props like false teeth or funny glasses. Just me and my body language. I’ve been working on a few poses, but I don’t know what to do. And the new picture is exactly a week away.

I’ve had many worries in my life before, but this is one of the biggest I can imagine right now. What the hell am I supposed to do. Please, if you have advice, let me know.

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Responses

  1. My thoughts:

    http://intrepidteacher.edublogs.org/2008/10/10/identity/


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