#TheProfileProject shines a light on the stories behind the avatars we choose to use on our social networking profiles.  This is a personal project in which, through interviews, I curate the meanings that profile pictures have, what we are trying to convey, and how we may share different aspects of our personalities on different social networks. I’m particularly interested in photos/pictures as they give a more instant and visceral impression than words can ever do.

I’m a quite a visual person and I’m always curious about profile pictures and try to imagine what impression people intend to convey about themselves in their choice of avatar. I know from many conversations that there’s often a back story to an avatar choice which isn’t always apparent or obvious.

You can find Profile Project stories by searching my blog under the category #TheProfileProject.

You can find my introductory blog post about #TheProfileProject here.

You can follow #TheProfileProject on Twitter @Profile_Project.

If you’d like to share your story about an avatar you use on any social network then I’d love to hear from you.


Check out excerpts from profile project stories below:

#TheProfileProject #12


“In my early days on Twitter I kept the same avatar for a long time. I think because my profile was part of my ‘professional identity’ I played it safe and did one of those slightly cheesy and non-threatening smiley headshots. I completely forget who it was, but someone messaged me and said that they loved my Twitter stream but my avatar looked like I was trying to sell them something! I was mortified at the time – as that kind of snake oil sales account is the exact opposite of how I wanted to be perceived.”

You can read the full story here.

#TheProfileProject #11



“My profile picture was taken by a female photographer when I was 29 and CEO of a national charity. She died leaving a young family. A mutual friend who is photographer and graphic designer turned it into an avatar after I was on Twitter for a few months. He felt I needed a memorable  avatar. I have recently thought about changing the image as I am older and my hair is longer now. I suppose I wondered what next when than photo was taken …  and so much was next … family life and a political career. It’s exactly a decade on and I feel quite pleased with the choices I have made since then. So I guess I now need a new ‘what’s next?’ avatar.”



#TheProfileProject #10


“My profile picture is a cartoon graphic representation of me to primarily accompany my YouTube channel, matching the channel’s artwork and house style. It was created by a friend William Leeks and kindly donated to my channel to help get it off the ground. The image depicts me in a white coat with a yellow stethoscope and blue hair, representing my real-life job as a children’s doctor in Scotland. Although I do not wear a white coat day-to-day, it helps add to the identity in the cartoon version of myself.”

You can read the full story here.


#TheProfileProject #9



“Even when I first started my Twitter journey my profile picture was one of me….. me, myself I. (I just love this song by Joan Armatrading and the words are fab). I believe that on social media presenting oneself as a real person works best.  I get such a tremendous response to those blogs and posts that are about more than my ‘professional self’; I think people identify more with the whole view of me.  So decided that it was a real me they should see.”

You can read the full story here.




#TheProfileProject #8



“I have changed my profile picture many times since I came late to Facebook – a curios skeptic determined not to take it too seriously.  I generally use self portraits, and when Facebook urges users to add rainbows or French flag filters to their profiles, I either ignored or signaled my approval of the cause in more personal ways. The most recent such occasion was the Bataclan shootings in Paris.”

You can read the full story here.


#TheProfileProject #7






“At the moment, my Twitter profile picture is of me cycling into the horizon, without a care in the world!  My account is a personal and professional space and my profile picture reflects this. It also serves as a personal reminder that I shouldn’t take myself too seriously and that I should take time to reflect on what others say. So much of social media is reactionary.”

You can read the full story here.



#TheProfileProject #6


“There are probably only a handful of active tweeps in my timeline who do not use their face photo as their profile image; and I am one of them. My primary reason is the attempt to remain as anonymous as I possibly can, and to protect my personal privacy as far as possible.”

You can read the full story here.



#TheProfileProject #5


“I picked up this post card at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park a few years ago, and all I knew about it was that it had “Cardiff College of Art Foundation Studies: Experimentation with materials 1968” written on the back, from the collection of Tom Hudson.”

You can read the full story here.


#TheProfileProject #4




“I was angry, very angry because a psychiatrist had told me I had a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder but the therapy I thought would help me was not available to me. My local mental health NHS trust did not provide it.

“I was on Facebook at the time and discovered many other people could not access therapy of any sort all over the country so I decided to get active and set up a Facebook page to try to campaign for better services. I thought better to channel my anger in a productive way.”

You can read the full story here.

#TheProfileProject #3

Boff Whalley


“When I was at grammar school in Burnley I was obsessed by music. For me it was an era when Bowie and Bolan gave way to a world of weird and wonderful rock music, from Zappa and the Bonzos and then headlong into the shuddering shock of punk, with all its fantastic possibilities.

“I loved music. I listened to it, lived and breathed it, but couldn’t play an instrument.”

You can read the full story here.



#TheProfileProject #2


“My profile picture is of me, standing in Waterstones, staring point blank close up at a copy of my book The Dark Net, which was for sale in there. It’s a ridiculous photo. I chose this because I am of course trying to sell copies of my book, and so this is an easy way of reminding people that it’s out there.”

You can read the full story here.


#TheProfileProject #1







“Believe it or not, I struggle with social media, despite having a personal Twitter account and looking after three other work based accounts. I struggle because I always saw social media as a shouting post for the loudest and the brashest, I didn’t want to post mundane pictures or comments that didn’t mean anything. I then found out that it’s so much more than that. Twitter certainly is where I now go to find out about the latest news or to find information on professional matters or on anything that interests me really.”

You can read the full story here.



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