Avatar Photo Essay

I was thirteen years old in 2007 when I first entered into the world of online profiling, filtering, editing and interacting with other online users. Chronologically speaking, I joined Facebook, MySpace, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn all in that exact order by early 2014. Since then, it has became a game of continuously updating my profile to make it as pristine, professional and “cool” looking as possible.

Millburn High School Graduation (June 2012)

HOLY SH*T, I ACTUALLY GRADUATED:

I am choosing the above avatar as my first image to demonstrate an example of my ‘online self’, because this was the year in which I began to pay more attention to detail on ways in which my online presence could be precieved by other online users. The image above is a prime example of me being caught in the moment; I remember feeling true bliss and satisfaction during the taking of this photograph. It was my high school graduation, for Pete’s sake.

Christine Liao writes about how her avatars create a timeline history about her self-image, because (in my opinion) without the existence of these avatars, peoples’ online precence would be pretty bleak and might not exist to the extent that it does today. The following images which I have handpicked, have each served a special purpose or meaning to me at one time or another. Whether I have placed them as my ‘cover photo’ or ‘profile picture’, each of these avatars have once served as a primary function on my various social media accounts.

Millburn LAX Final Game (April 2012)

SHOW OFF:

This image was added as my Facebook profile picture during the early months of my freshman year at college. This avatar was a way for me to showcase to other individuals on Facebook that I once held the prestine position as captain of my lacrosse team. I also liked this image, because I felt that it personified a very positive image of myself and my teammates. In high school, I was always described as the “free spirit”, “artistic” and “athletic” girl, which is why I felt more pressure to demonstrate those qualities through my online outlets. This was/is my way of searching for affirmation from those following me.

I wanted to appease to all of my Facebook ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ when uploading this image, because I thought this was a positive and energetic representation of myself, similar to my high school days. I wanted to obtain a similar reputation of myself by my new-found college friends, much like my high school friends did. Being that I was still a stranger to most of the college students and having Facebook as an easy way to expose myself however I’d like, updating my Facebook profile with a brand new artsy photograph was my best option… other than being awkward and talking with people face-to-face.

Facebook gives us the opportunity to layout and construct how we would like friends, acquaintances and other strangers to perceive ourselves. This is a similar way of thinking to that of Coleman when she writes, “We are everyday using mediated forms to represent us as proxies. Avatars are figures of transition in the sense that we have already arrived at a moment where it is normal to have your Twitter persona or your Facebook page convey important information about who you are”. The avatars that I am purposely posting to my social media outlets is pre-planned; I use the avatar in place of myself to represent how I am in a single picture. With that being said, I have many positive attributes in which I want my followers to take away from, so picking the right avatar that will have the capabilities of showcasing my multiple positive attributes is an absolute must.

I CAN IN FACT FIND LOVE:

I remember feeling anxious and excited when I finally made the decision to make the above image my profile picture. My boyfriend and I had been dating for some time, so naturally I felt it was time to make it more official by telling the Facebook world “I AM TAKEN BY THIS MAN”. Though Rich (my boyfriend) and I have taken numerous of pictures together, I have never been the kind of girlfriend who likes to constantly post about her significant other on social media. I personally feel like it takes a way the “specialness” of the relationship if you are constantly boasting about it online to hundreds of other online individuals. With that being said, I think showing a little love and appreciation for a significant other here and there is appropriate; it shows dedication, maturity and most importantly — cuteness.

Perhaps I am biased, but to most people this image might appear to be untouched and appealing to the eye as is. Prior to me uploading this picture to my Facebook, I took it upon myself to increase the quality of the definition, crop and touch-up various areas of the photograph that did not appeal to me nor did I think would gain the ‘likes’ I felt it deserved. I recall thinking “I have people to impress”, “Friends, ex’s and others are going to critique how I look, so I better make sure I look awesome”. The more high-definition and better color-quality of a picture, the more likes and appreciation you will receive.

Visit to the Colosseum (Thanksgiving Break 2015)

I AM COOL ‘AF’ BECAUSE I AM HERE:

I was not only excited to be able to have the opportunity to travel abroad to Italy for my 21st birthday, but I was also anxiously anticipating the thought of finally being able to capture the scenic and “Insta worthy” picture(s) [as seen above]. My hopes for this trip was not only to site see and eat authentic Italian cuisine, but to be able to capture the perfect ‘profile picture’ for my Facebook or the ideal Instagram shot that would finally launch me into getting the 200+ likes I have always wondered and sometimes hoped for.

Yes, I truly thought like this at the time.

I believe that there is a need and wantingness to be affirmed on your online profile by other followers. For example, when my avatars reach a certain amount of traffic on the ‘like’ button, I know that what ever I did that day had to be cool, because of the seemingly positive feedback I receieved.

My hopes for this picture was to demonstrate to my followers that I am a world-class traveler, someone who does not stay confined to one place and a person with the means to go abroad. I wanted to appear calm, cool and collected in this picture. Something between trying, but not too hard. In fact, I recently had a few friends mention to me how cool and trendy they thought I was because of my avatars on Facebook and Instagram. Another friend mentioned that she thought I seemed interesting, because it looks as though I travel quite often. (I like to think I am interesting in general, but you get the point)!

“DO IT FOR THE LIKES”:

Much like that of Marwick’s writing, I feel that there is a balance of knowing what to post, when to post, how to post and where to post online. by way of achieving status. (Ex. San Fransisco/Italy pictures above) “Celebrity practice requires constant interaction with fans to preserve the power differentials intrinsic to the performed ‘celebrity’ and ‘fan’ personas”. This is not to say that I would consider myself to be an online celebrity by any means, believe me because I am not, but I do think that each of us has a certain amount of following on our social media accounts, which gives us a sort of ‘celebrity edge’. With that being said, upkeep and maintenance with avatars is very important, especially in the world 0f 2016.

Though I do enjoy the image above of myself in San Fransisco, I have to wonder if comes across as though I am trying to appear “model esque” to my Facebook followers. Regardless, I set the stage with this picture — this was not taken on a whim or in the moment, I had planned out each angle and position in which this photograph would be taken. Whaa-lah! With edits on “BeFunky” and “VSCO”, I created the perfect profile picture to be shared with everyone else in my online world.

Ironically enough, shortly before this picture was taken, my older sister and I had gotten into a bit of an argument, but by the looks of this photograph everything seems to be fairly tranquil. I wanted to appear relaxed, which I certainly was not at the time this was captured, but none of my online followers would ever suspect that — I certainly would hope not, being that I worked hard so none of my followers would suspect anything less than perfect.

Looking back on all of the strategically placed avatars, crafted and overly edited pictures, I seem to have put a lot of time, effort and thought into how I would like to be perceived. Not only do I want to hold myself at a high standard in real-time, I want to feel the same accomplishments online, as well. I did not know back in 2007 that I would be giving Facebook, Instagram and other online outlets as much attention as I do today in 2016. In 20–30 years from now, I like to think that I will look back and be satisfied by the avatars in which I have presented as myself.