Bateman: Of profile photos and the American Dream

By Oliver Bateman

As the Super Bowl approaches, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that many of your peers are switching… As the Super Bowl approaches, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that many of your peers are switching their Facebook default profile photos to the logo of our beloved hometown Steelers. Now you’re faced with a terrible choice: Should you jump on the bandwagon or remain a rugged individualist? No matter which option you choose, the fact remains that selecting your Facebook profile photo — far from being a privilege — is a tremendous burden.

Although the recent Facebook redesign has deemphasized the size and importance of the profile photo, picking the right one still demands careful consideration. This is the “face” that you’re going to show the world, including the employers, jilted exes and parents who are attempting to divine your darkest secrets. To this end, we’ve decided to come to your assistance with a handful of tips and tricks that will help you set the virtual world on fire.

First, ask yourself what kind of person you are. Are you an artsy, intellectual type? If so, you might want to consider a stunning, high-contrast portrait in black and white. Sepia tones would work too, but try to avoid anything that resembles one of those faux-vintage Wild West photos you and your folks used to pose for during summertime visits to Kennywood. Unless of course you’re trying to be ironic, in which case everyone will totally get it, and you’re totally within your rights to do it.

Perhaps you’re a bit too modest and retiring to put your own face out there. In that case, select your favorite academic celebrity to represent you. Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida and Kurt Vonnegut all have great hair. Leo Tolstoy might be a bit too old school and anarcho-Christian for most, but that wild beard of his can’t be denied. Michel Foucault is a smart choice, because people who aren’t as smart as you might wind up mistaking him for Picasso, Stravinsky, Lex Luthor or some other dead bald guy.

However, we recognize that this nerdy stuff won’t work for many of you. You people are painfully attractive and need to share your rare beauty with the world. If this rare beauty happens to be marred by an inelegant chin or a Kirsten Dunst-like snaggletooth, you can disguise that with a few well-angled shots from the iPhone’s Hipstamatic app. We must caution, however, that a vanity-based approach to Facebook photos will require constant vigilance. To truly succeed, you must scrutinize all of the images of you, de-tagging or deleting the ones that fail to present you at the pinnacle of your ravishing good looks. And guys, here’s a special hint for you: Nothing says drop-dead gorgeous like a little beard, so don’t be afraid to seize this opportunity to showcase your killer goatees and moutees.

Another way to go is to upload a photo of your celebrity doppelganger. Though it was a popular meme a few months ago, its appeal remains. Did some intoxicated bar patron brush up against you and remark on your vague resemblance to one of our nation’s top celebrities? Do you look in the mirror and see reflected therein a striking approximation of some golden original? If you answered yes to either question, post a gorgeous picture of that celebrity and await the flood of compliments. “So tr00,” “u kno it,” “yah work it!” and “wow yes” are examples of the sort of praise you can expect to receive after you debut a stunning photo of SNL cutie pie Seth Meyers.

In the event that none of these suggestions do it for you, opt for a photo of your baby nephew or favorite pet. Although a good friend of ours deplores the decision to use anything but a simple photo of one’s face as a Facebook default, such unimaginative and arbitrary rulemaking strikes us as more appropriate for driver’s licenses in a fascist state than for public profiles on the world’s freest and most perfect social network. People love looking at dogs and babies, and a profile photo that contains both — perhaps you could Photoshop a baby’s head onto a dog’s body, or vice versa — would surely melt even the coldest of hearts.

Keep in mind, though, that what we’ve produced here is far from an exhaustive list of profile photo possibilities. In the event that you want to get really crazy, you could use a picture of a 1980s cartoon character or a photo of you that’s been Simpsonized, Mad Men-ized or turned into a replica of the popular Barack Obama campaign image. Although very little can compete with that black-and-gold appeal of the feared Steel Curtain, you should remain unafraid to assert your individuality by breaking with that crowd and joining some other, slightly smaller crowd. This is America, after all — and if you don’t want people to forget that, just set Old Glory as your default.

Oliver Bateman is the director of profile photography at the Moustache Club of America. You can peruse the Club’s extensive collection of clipart and animated gifs at