Made by Sarah Bien

Created: September 19th, 2015


Intention: My question is how closely linked is our profile picture to our presence and personality in the offline world? What would happen if two individuals changed their profile pictures to the other's tastes? Azer Wang and I have decided to copy each others styles in our profile pictures and observe our friends' reactions. Would they not notice? What would they say? I'm expecting maybe some confusion and laughter, which is actually what I enjoy bringing out in my profile picture. 


Attempt 1: Dressing like each other.

Our first attempt to create new profile pictures was to dress and act like each other and have it captured on photo during visual lab. Azer dresses mostly in black, and I wear anything from dresses to colorful clothing. Hence, my complete outfit is black, and Azer is wearing one of my dresses. However, we later took another look at our photos and realized they didn't have a desired effect. The changes between what we normally wear and our switched clothes was too subtle. Maybe some of our close friends would notice the difference, but not one else would. We then decided to make a more drastic and clearer change...


Attempt 2: Directly switching profile pictures.

We decided that in order to receive a strong reaction from our friends on facebook, we would switch our profile pictures. Afterward, we got a lot of confusion from our close friends we regularly talk to. A lot of comments about getting messages between us confused since our profile pictures are what we look to first when we're checking who we're talking to. However, we didn't get much response from many people outside our close friends. 


Attempt 3: Finding the ridiculous photo

Finally we decided to take things another step forward. We found crazy photos of each other and switched them. This time we got a little more response from our general friends on facebook. Again a lot of confusion and questions if we were hacked. The people viewing our switching we trying to explain why we would do such a thing. It was definitely out of the normal.


Reflection: From trying this experimentation, I found that there were so many subtle relationships between our profile pictures and our online presence. Simply messaging someone on facebook, we rely on our friends' profile pictures to reassure us that we're communicating with the right person. The same way we use faces, behavior, and sound to confirm that we're talking to the right person in offline settings. However, I also found that even though our behavior was definitely strange and noticeable, no one outside our close friends were responsive. This is due to the fact that even though it was weird, we were just 2 friends out of hundreds. The strangeness was flooded over by other news and activity and wasn't quite enough to make a huge response. With the surplus of activity from hundreds of friends on facebook, it's reasonable that not every strange activity will go noticed or cared about.