What Your Facebook Profile Picture Says About You

If you have a profile picture of an object or a pet, or something that doesn’t include your face, it probably means you’re more likely to be neurotic.

A study from academics at the University of Pennsylvania found that if you pose in a funny way, you’re more likely to be open to new experiences, whereas if your image is perfectly composed, you’re more likely to be conscientious.

Extroverts are more likely to have colourful photos, that make them look younger, while agreeable people are more likely to smile, or include friends.

However, science says you shouldn’t even be picking your own image.

In fact, recent research says you should let someone else choose, if you want to seem friendly, intelligent and attractive.

The study of 102 students, published in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, found that people were consistently better at picking profile pictures for others than for themselves.

Dr David White, the study’s first author, said:

Our findings suggest that people make poor choices when selecting flattering images of themselves for online profile pictures, which affects other people’s perception of them.

This effect is likely to have a substantial impact on online interactions, the impressions people form and the decisions they base on them, including whether to employ, date, befriend or even vote for someone.

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.

Each participant selected two images that were most and least likely to be used in three social media context. They then repeated this with another person’s face.

Photographs that others selected were consistently found to be linked with impressions of positive traits.

Dr White continued:

Our results demonstrate that people know how to select profile pictures that fit specific networking contexts and make positive impressions on strangers: dating images appear more attractive, and professional images appear more competent.

According to research, your Facebook activity can reveal a lot about your personality, including how confident and narcissistic you are.

People tend to post updates in line with one of the Big Five personality traits (extroversion, openness, agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness), according to researchers from Brunel University.

They found that:

  • Neurotic people use Facebook to seek validation from others
  • Narcissists update about their achievements, diet, and exercise, and seek attention and validation through a high number of ‘likes’
  • Open, curious and creative people mainly post about political and intellectual topics
  • Conscientious people don’t post very often, and when they do it’s mainly about their children
  • Those with low self-esteem mainly post about their partners

Your photos can also be quite telling, too. A study from the University of Pennsylvania studied five different types of photos and personalities.

They found that:

  • People  posing with an object or in a funny pose in their profile picture are the most likely to be open to new experiences
  • Neurotic people tend to have profile pictures of an object or pet; something that doesn’t include their face. And those who do upload a photo of their face may have a weird expression resulting from the fact they would rather look miserable, but are aware of the social pressures to look happy
  • Conscientious people are most likely to have happy, perfectly framed images as their profile pictures
  • The most agreeable people are most likely to have profile pictures of themselves smiling and laughing with friends
  • Extroverts are most likely to have colorful profile pictures, and use methods to appear younger than they are