What Your Profile Picture Says About You

Amelia Diamond | January 20, 2015

Let’s be real: we have collectively been guilty of every single one.

Realistically, how much time have you wasted on Facebook?  Was your profile picture taken by your Instagram husband?

The “Candid”:


Very few flattering candids are ever true candids. Most are taken at weddings by a professional, and as a rule, they are terrible. On the rare and miraculous occasion that a friend should take a beautiful shot of you at a party, it is assumed that she will never upload the picture, nor will she remember to text it to you. You will never see it again.

The faux-candid pro, however, understands the value of a DIY. She’s a social media Martha Stewart and believes there’s no shame to the game so long as it’s not a creepy MacBook Photobooth shot filtered in low-quality grayscale. She exercises her right to use a Selfie Stick unironically. She’s also been known to enlist the help of a patient parent or friend while she poses in various states of contemplation and/or laughing-while-the-wind-is-blowing.

As the old adage goes, if you want something done right, do it yourself.

The Young Professional:


Nothing says, I’ve erased all evidence potentially detrimental to my future political and or academic career quite like the corporate headshot.

The Traveler:


A click through The Traveler’s profile pictures is like flipping through National Geographic and realizing your friend is the silhouetted image in every single shot. She’s great at the humble brag for this very reason: instead of posing front and center at Every Worldly Monument Ever, the traveler remains inconspicuous enough that you can’t really knock her for doing a tree-pose in every single shot, nor can you see that she hasn’t showered in whoknowshowlong. Frequent comments under her pictures include: “I want your life,” and “Do you have a job?”

The Street Style Pic:


Screw hair and crop the face — this photo is about the outfit. Her motto: let the photographers do the stalking; let the clothes do the talking.

That Couple:


You know them. They both have slightly alternative versions of what’s essentially the same photo where they’re staring into each other’s eyes. The date they met is probably the caption, punctuated by periods as opposed to back slashes: “11.3.08.” They’ve probably both commented “love you!” at some point.

You’ll notice neither hosts this picture at the same time. The one who isn’t rocking the When Are We Getting Engaged? photo typically posts a solo shot wherein he or she looks super hot/suspiciously single, and the consistent toggling has consumed (or bored) their “following” with an online guessing game of Broken Up, Back Together; In a Fight, I’m Sorry Babe.

That’s Not You LOL:


Rare is the person who opts out of the one opportunity where it’s okay to self-promote. (Although technically, it is fairly self-promotional to make your profile picture a screen grab of some event or party you’re hosting.)

This person is either very cool (the photo is a reference so niche not even Google Image can locate its origin), making their political opinion public (the photo will immediately inform you of their cause), obsessed with Marisa Miller (caption: “Not me LOL.” Comment: “No shit.”), or hilarious and weird (the photo will be of someone random, like Fabio. Caption: none. Comment: “That’s not you LOL.” Response back: unnecessary.)

The OG Selfie Duck Face:


She’s team Rihanna, knows her angles, loves her “~*BeTcHeZ*~” and doesn’t care what you think.

The “My Friend’s Building Her Photography Portfolio” Shot:


Typically involving a graffiti wall or field of wheat, this earnest pose in a dramatic outfit with excessive makeup is often the calling card of a budding model/amateur photographer duo. Very often there will be a watermark in cursive at the bottom right of the photo. What does this say about the person who makes this their profile picture, though?

They understand the value of mutually beneficial relationships and know when to take advantage of a free airbrushing package.

The Athlete:


You want to hate the athlete because her profile picture is a daily reminder that your gym membership is a $75 keychain and your “get fit 2015” resolution is an as-of-yet empty promise. But you can’t. She’s lifting double her bodyweight and could fight a grown lion. Like Ron Burgundy once said, you’re not mad. You’re impressed.

The Group Pic:


Not only does she-who-group-pics have friends, she has multiple friends, all of them who’ve spent years perfecting their “Sides” and height order within these photos. You’ll notice that though the seasons and scenarios change, the poses rarely do. The Group Pic-er should be commended for her dedication to friendship and lack of narcissism in comparison to her cropped, solo-shot peers. However, one should keep an eye out for the girl with a hidden motive. See below…

The No Mercy for Your Friends:


There are two kinds of No Mercy pictures. The first is a group pic (see above) where the blatant self-love is masked by an army of friends. While there’s no shame in the Damn-I-Look-Good mindset — after all, a profile picture is supposed to be about you — watch out for the girl who has zero regard for the rest of her friends in the picture with her. Everyone else has lazy eyes, weird smiles, smoosh-arms and bad hair days? Too bad. If this girl looks good, she’s posting it anyway.

There’s another No Mercy girl: the ruthless cropper. So what if the group photo was a momentous occasion where best friends who hadn’t seen each other in years reunited? Chick needs a new Tinder picture, and she’s not about to go distracting her potential suitors.


The Halloween Picture:


It’s January 20 and this girl’s profile is still boasting her Halloween costume from October 2012 when she had abs and a carryover tan from a family trip to Mexico. By the time March rolls around, she might swap to a Christmas pic featuring her in leggings, a Santa hat, festive glitter and an ugly sweater. She is the human equivalent of the house next door to your parents because she refuses to respect proper calendar etiquette, but her end goal is looking awesome — not keeping her following informed of the date. That’s what iPhones are for. Leave her alone.

The Loner Laugher:


The is the holy grail of profile pictures: caught mid-LOL while in a conveniently great outfit with an even better background. It is technically a candid, though many argue that 9 times out of 10, the LL knew the photo was being taken and interrupted her own pose mid-laugh.

The Loner Laugher is telling the world: I have friends because A) someone is taking this picture and B) someone has made me laugh, but where she excels is in her ability to post a photo of just herself without looking completely narcissistic because she’s just “casually cracking up” as opposed to posing with her elbow on a tree a la Senior Portraits ’06. If she’s single, this is her Hinge photo. If she’s in a relationship, then you’ve considered — at least once — using this as your Hinge photo.

We have even more insight into what your various habits say about you, here

Illustrations by Charlotte Fassler. 

  • Dressed with soul

    You are so right! I posted a few months ago already about the same topic as it’s bothering me a lot 🙂
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena http://www.dressedwithsoul.com

  • My profile pictures I guess tend to be a hybrid between the traveler (the nature-er) and the street-style. I’ll take sunset over a cactus with my vintage patchwork dress, thankyouverymuch.

    Brilliant lil write-up, Amelia.

  • These were so spot on! These posts are my favorite.


  • Quinn Halman

    I think “the candid” girl or guy is the equivalent of Kristen Wiig’s don’t make me sing character accept they say “don’t take my picture”

  • Kelsey Moody

    I very recently changed from a “group pic” slash “‘budget’ traveler” to the “OG duck face selfie” and I got so much shit for it that I cant go back now since the Mean Girl references/comment (So you agree, you think youre really pretty?) have already reached 12 likes under my photo….its like people forgot I was pretty YA KNO?!

    • Quinn Halman

      I know girls who delete their profile pictures if it doesn’t reach 200 likes

      • Charlotte Fassler

        200!?!? you know some really popular people!!!!

        • Quinn Halman

          Profile pictures are a big thing for most teenage girls (this screen grab is not from my profile)

          • Kelsey Moody

            DAMN it is not easy to be a teenage girl! 515 likes?!

          • Quinn Halman

            NO IT IS NOT! This is a very normal thing for me to see

          • Kelsey Moody

            …I am embarrassed, I thought someones COMMENT getting 12 likes on my prof pic was a big deal. geeze louise whatta loser!

          • Quinn Halman

            The thing is, it’s a bathing suit picture. Out of all my friends that are girls, the larger portion of them have profile pictures that’s them on a beach somewhere showing off their Triangl bikini. I always remind myself that their mom took that picture.

          • Kate

            Quinn, you’re perhaps the most eloquent, astute and delightful teenage young lady I’ve stumbled across! More meagerly “liked” clothed profile pictures for the win!

          • that is crazy. please tell me you aren’t one of the 515. no one needs that many likes

          • Yeah there was a girl at my high school who was “known” for getting 500+ likes on every profile pic she posted.

          • andrea raymer

            I don’t think I even have that many friends.

    • There are 2 types of people: those who get 515 likes & those who get 25.

      I’m actually the 3rd option: psyched to get 13 likes.

  • hahahaha. don’t forget about “the volunteer” who has a default photo of them reading/playing soccer/building a house surrounded by tiny children in some remote village. I personally just choose photos where my hair looks good.

    • The volunteer is SUCH a good one. I remember these images sprouting like skin tags on an old dog just about a month or two before final admissions decisions were released from colleges. It’s that millennial horror of having a respectable institution seeing your not-so-respectable behavior mixed with if-they-do-find-me-at-least-I-look-altruistic.

      • Esther Levy

        I just can’t believe you used the phrase, “skin tags on an old dog.” You do you.

        • It’s what came to me in the moment. The good the bad the ugly.

          • disqus_37sUqu87V8


    • Quinn Halman

      Aaaaaaaand that’s my cover pic

      • hahahaha oh it is I just looked. SORRY, QUINN.

        • Quinn Halman


    • Kelli

      humanitarians of tinder, check it.


    • Michael Stinson

      The crazy cat lady who always has a picture with her pets

  • Romina C

    Ahahah so true and so funny. You missed the pro photoshoot profile picture though.

    Romina | http://www.blaastyle.com

  • parkzark

    Mine right now is with mi madre so I guess you could call it the “posing with my mom so you know I’m all about family” profile picture

    • parkzark

      I also like those who post profile pictures that are unflattering on purpose. Not the making a funny face but I still look hot ones, the straight up don’t give a fuck funny “ugly” ones.

  • Marianne Ronsse

    I am with you on this “no mercy for your friends” issue! I often happen to be caught on photo at the wrong fraction of second, looking terrible… but that doesn’t stop other people in the pic thinking it’s a great pic

  • You have forgotten one of the most annoying profile pics! THE BABY!


      • Maui

        the 3d ultrasound just grosses me out!

        • Casey Mclerran

          me too and I just had a baby.

    • Vicki

      I logged in just to upvoye this because you are SO RIGHT!! Damn baby pictures lol

  • Candice

    What’s a Hinge photo? Help, I’M

  • andrea raymer

    I am currently the loner laugher. But I think the rest of my photos don’t necessarily fit in any category, there is the “I’m About to Graduate, so I Tied My Tassel in My Hair” and the “Look I’m Holding a Live chicken” and “We are so cool in our plastic ponchos” and “I’m trying to Convince You That I’m Dating Joe Jonas”. Maybe those last two can be considered “Ironic street style” and “I wish I was a couple”.

  • Does “the couple” count if we’re now married and when I met him, his profile picture was of Bob Saget?

  • Allie Fasanella

    i can’t tell you how many times my sister has uttered this phrase to me:
    “Allie, take a candid of me!”

  • katiedid13

    If by “that couple” you mean my dog and me…

    • Aydan

      or me and my bestie!

  • These are great; I LOL’d the whole way through. Brava, Amelia!

  • Allie Fasanella

    my profile picture says, “I’m 21 now, so i’m holding this red solo cup.” Also, this is probably the tannest i have ever looked, but I’m 92% positive it was the lighting because my bday is in september.

  • natalie riachi


  • Sarah

    May I add the no-file pic? I can safely say they are all friends who have packed on the pounds and won’t post a picture. Instead they post a photo of their eye or lips. Hello, you’ve been outed.

  • Casey Mclerran

    I don’t seem to see my mysterious if you know me you know what I look like already and if you don’t know me you will have to troll through my photos to find out what I look like artistic-ish self portrait style of profile picture mentioned here. Maybe I am too out there to fall into a category of similarities of the friends of strangers.

  • This is so perfect!!

  • rhiannon

    love this!

  • Lucy Korn

    Facebook’s worst feature, aside from the fact it is not Gif friendly (WHY, Mark WHY?), is that it shares with all your friends every time you update your profile pic. I’d like to quietly self promote thank you, I don’t need everyone to be alerted to it.

    • HH

      you can turn that off when you post it. takes a millisecond

  • Lotta

    Hahaha, this is so great, thank you 😀

    Lotta – mein Lottaleben

  • Anina

    What about the artsy/trashy selfie taken with your webcam? Preferably grainy and/or b/w and sort of ironic, but still strangely photogenic.

    • Anina

      It’s the profile pic equivalent of normcore. Watch out.

  • Not gonna lie, I’m so guilty of the candid. If you’re going to look bad anyways, might as well make it look like you were having fun doing it!


  • hila

    what about the “mistake” picture? My mom accidentally uploaded a picture of me as her profile pic. She had no idea what happened or how it got there; she didn’t even know she had changed it! Gave everyone a great laugh..

  • Haha on my personal insta Im the no mercy chick-ruthless cropper for sure. On my blog I am the street style to a T. Such great calls in this.


  • Kandeel

    Is it just me or does the corporate profile pic look like amelia? like the drawing itself looks like her..IDK maybe im wrong

  • Kristen

    No mercy for your friends / Kim K

  • mine is a selfie lol


  • And the ever difficult task, for me at least, is the forsaken cover photo. It’s just the perfect opportunity to be “ironic, hilarious, but please take me seriously” at the same time.

  • Parisbreakfast

    What about the Me at 5-years old portrait? Seen a lot of those..

  • Zoe

    I spent a while hanging out with a chorus of No Mercy, I’m-posting-that-photo-where-I-look-fab-and-you-kinda-don’t-but-whatever-lol-I’m-trying-to-hook-up-with-Kyle, girls for a very long time. Here’s my learned advice: cut them out of your life. True friends don’t post shit photos of their lady companions (maybe you’re trying to get with Kyle too) and yes, you may remove your tag, but hello that photo stays very much in people’s newsfeeds

  • Can we add the “Racer”? Unlike the athlete, where the person takes impressive photos of themselves looking super hot, this individual’s profile photos consist mainly of them A) mid-race run: looking suspiciously happy (NO ONE looks that excited by mile 18) or like they might vom at any given moment B) giving two thumbs up while simultaneously holding a medal in one hand a pint of been in the other C) pre-race shots consisting of bib/shirt/shoes/packs upon unnecessary packs of GU D) a closet full of medals.

  • Lol at the “My Best Friend is Building her Photography Portfolio” shot. Too real.

    — Michelle | MXP STYLE

  • Tracy

    Great reading this! Love the street-style pic!

  • hahahaha this is so nice



  • The Bamboo District

    This is the best profile pic round up ever. Safe to say I have posted at least 80% of these types of photos throughout 10 years of Facebook use. Right now hitting the “That Couple” gold standard….a wedding pic! Haha.

  • Ryan Gingery

    Great writing, so spot on!

  • Nikki

    What about a picture of you and your dog? What does this fall under…..?

  • Vanessa Basanta
  • ik

    Lol if she’s team Rihanna she will love her “heaux”

  • Kaleigh Fasanella

    literally awkwardly loling in public while reading this. too good.

  • Michaela

    This is so funny, SO PERFECT!

  • Tania

    This was so perfect I cried a little…okay, a lot

  • What about the ones who change profile pictures faster than I text?


  • anneliseatkinson

    Wait what about the “me when I was little” pic – you put a picture up of you as a 3 year old doing something cute with big eyes and acting all cheeky and shit in the hope people will forget that you’re the person who leaves passive aggressive notes asking people to do their washing up, and instead think that you are omg soooo cute!!!

  • Glow On

    Wow I never bothered to consider profile photos and the corresponding personality profile, but this post is freaking hilarious. Thanks for sharing! http://www.getchaglowon.com

  • Lyric

    My profile pics on facebook are a pretty constant rotation of pictures of me when I was in India. Even though that was a year ago.

  • Anoushka

    Haha I love this, and the illustrations are brill 🙂

    Anoushka Probyn – A London Fashion Blog

  • Owen Iverson

    my logo

  • Alex

    The ugly girl who isn’t the center of attention in a photo with her attractive friends. I find it misleading, and such people have a plethora of excuses for it, none of which are believable.

  • Ale

    <3 love this!

  • Brilliant ! You captured this so perfectly that I can’t change my photo without first thinking which stereotype I’d be.

  • Gene Billero

    Being natural,clean an honest with yourself is the best picture. A dimple wouldn’t be so bad either. Gene B.

  • soniadelvalle

    I propose adding the mirror selfie, the one that says, “I’m alone in this bathroom and I have no one to take my pic, but IDGAF because my look is on fleek”. Which is my fb profile pic 9/10.

    • soniadelvalle

      Update: I have graduated to The OG Selfie Duck Face. And yes, I’m team Rihanna.

  • I actually had to go back to check what my profile picture was. So basically I am the Halloween person – if I celebrated Halloween that is. ?

  • LalaN

    How about the back lit photo where you can’t even see my face

  • You forgot the ‘I’ve lost my entire identity since having a child’ profile pic! ??

  • Carolina Loch

    My profile picture: the only chance I have to be on P&B (life is so beautiful with filter). <3
    Ps. I hate to follow "no mercy" people.

    • Carolina Loch


  • Mine show me very intellectual 🙂

    Money Transfer Comparison

  • Andy

    what about how often you change it? the once-a-day-er or long term devotees (12-18 months) (guilty)…

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  • chelsea

    What about the regular smiling self picture with non duck face poses? ???