Having a strong online presence in today’s world is more important than ever, but are you making your social media profiles as appealing as they could be? According to a recent study by Spring Open, your profile picture selection could be holding you back. It is well established that people make a wide range of judgments based on your face in a matter of milliseconds. Because of this, it’s important you make the absolute best decision when it comes to choosing the first photo people see of you. Researchers suggest that, if you want make a good impression, you might want to consider asking someone else for advice.

People use digital media for lots of purposes. Those purposes generally involve social, professional or romantic ends. Whether you’re one of the 1.8 billion active Facebook users, checking LinkedIn regularly for job openings, or trying to find a hot date through apps like Tinder and Bumble, it’s important to know your pictures are making the right impact.

Researchers at Spring Open set out to find whether or not people are managing their profiles most effectively. They wanted to prove users are making the best possible choices based on the assumption that people have incentives to select their most flattering photos. The researchers also assumed that social media users were best suited to choose appropriate pictures. Turns out we’re probably not as keen at determining our most flattering profile pictures as we may think.

Why we typically make the wrong choice

The study involved 114 students who consented to participate in exchange for course credit. Participants provided 12 ‘Profile Picture worthy’ images of themselves. The researchers set certain criteria for each photo. For instance, they required that each photo be medium to high resolution.

Instructors then brought the students to the research center and asked them to rate pictures for different purposes. Once the pictures were chosen, students were instructed to rate how attractive, trustworthy, dominant, confident, and competent each image appeared on a scale from one to 10. Afterwards, they instructed participants to make selections for other candidates.

profile picture

To increase the accuracy of the study, researchers also employed more outside sources via Amazon Turk. Each viewer rated 12 different images of 12 different people in the same categories (Confidence, Attractiveness etc.). This yielded 20 different judgments total for each picture. Researchers compared the judgments of online respondents with the students’ self-perception.

The results indicated that participants’ perception of what each picture conveyed was off the mark. Those who were surveyed ranked the five categories more similar to the other-selected profile pictures than the self-selected ones. This means we often have misguided interpretations of our own faces because we are the most familiar with them.

So, next time you are getting ready to post a new profile picture, you might want to take a step back and ask for some help from a friend.

How good are you at selecting your profile picture? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

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