Whether you go for a candid black and white solo shot, a group picture with your squad or an eighties/nineties-tastic snap from your childhood, it’s likely you’ve put some thought into your social media profile picture and what it says about you.
But new research may have unlocked the key to living your best online life; letting a stranger pick one for you.
A team at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, carried out an investigation into the process by which people chose their profile pictures for the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications.
In the research, 102 participants chose two pictures of their own face out of a possible 12 options.
Researchers then showed the images to strangers recruited online, asking them to rate how favourable the photo would be for each context
The results were overwhelming.
Scientists leading the study quickly discovered that the images participants selected themselves had a far less favourable impression on others than those picked out by complete strangers.
This included pictures for dating sites, social media platforms, and professional networking services such as LinkedIn.
While individuals obviously attempted to pick more attractive pictures for dating profiles and what they perceived to be more conservative, respectable pictures for professional sites, the study’s findings suggest we lack the objectivity to truly know our best images as virtually all of us are “hindered by an impaired ability to view one’s own face accurately”.
The study’s author, Dr David White, explained: “Previous work has shown that people make inferences about an individual's character and personality within a split second of seeing a photograph of their face, so our results have clear practical implications;
“If you want to put your best face forward, it makes sense to ask someone else to choose your picture.”
Sounds good in theory, but we’re not quite sure how asking a complete stranger to pick your profile pictures works in practice. Maybe it’s time to make the most of those busy commuter trains and put our next profile photo to the public vote, eh?
Images: Getty/Rex Features