After gathering 60 profile pics from my Facebook friends, I categorized them based on what the photo’s purpose was (note: this is all based on my knowledge of the person and what I think the photo was trying to convey). As expected, a majority of the pics were chosen simply on the subject’s appearance, i.e. they liked the way they looked in the photo. This category consists mostly of selfies, formal occasion pictures, and photos with at least some professional direction. This makes sense as it’s the most obvious choice: the first thing people on your page is you at one of your best moments (in the subject’s eyes). After appearance, relationship is the second largest category; a majority of these pics are the subject with their family or significant other. An area of interest here is age; despite composing less than 30% of the photos taken, adults (by which I mean people who are above the normal schooling age, mostly people who have graduated from college) compose 50% of the relationship category. This may be indicative of associating your identity more with the people most important in your life as you age. On the flip side, the next largest category, Travel, is composed solely of adolescents. By travel, however, I don’t just mean a photo of a place the subject visited, but also unusual things they did. The purpose of this type of photo is to show off; the pic is saying, “Look at where I went, look at what I did”. This makes sense, as with the transition to adulthood, the subject is trying to define themself, mostly with places they’ve been or tasks they’ve done. With the same number of pics is the symbol category, composed mostly of photos of objects and things. As with relationships, 50% of this category is adults, suggesting again that as an individual ages, they are able to identify with things distinct from themselves. The other two categories, miscellaneous, composed of pics of either multiple or indeterminate categories, and activity, composed of pics the subject does on a continual basis, do not provide much information.
Overall, I wasn’t too surprised at the results of this project. I suspected most of the pics would simply be photos that the subject thought they looked good in. However, I was intrigued by the correlations between age and category of profile pic. I’d be interested to get more data on what photos older individuals use to present themselves, and how that corresponds to identity.
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