The Pros and Cons of the Profile Picture (Avatar)
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Attractiveness and Prejudice
Unfortunate as it may be, your personal appearance can have a strong positive or negative effect on how your freelancing profile is viewed. Humans make judgments about people based on how they look: this may be unfair, but it is reality. While I realize that the topic may make some people feel uncomfortable, it’s my responsibility as a guide writer to tell it to you straight, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
For most people, our general appearance is not that important. The bulk of us fall somewhere in the center of the attractiveness “bell curve”, and so we won’t elicit much of a reaction one way or another in those who see our pictures. The problems usually come in with those on the tail ends of the curve: the very attractive and the very unattractive. (Yes, I realize beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’m talking generalities here.)
Those who are less attractive than average are often the subject of prejudices in our society. Sad, but true. If your face is generally unappealing, some folks may count that against you, even if it is subconscious and they don’t realize it. This also includes those who are heavy and whose faces convey this in their images: even though much of society is overweight, there’s still a bias against such individuals.
Very good-looking people have a different sort of problem. Some people are resentful of those who are attractive, again often without even realizing it. There are people who buy into the myth that “brains” and “beauty” are a trade-off, and so someone who’s striking in appearance must therefore not likely to be as good as those who are more plain. Appealing women especially have issues with unfairly not being taken seriously.
Finally, while we’ve made great strides towards the goal of the late Martin Luther King Jr. that we be judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin, there are still far too many who hold on to latent racial biases. The issue here isn’t so much whites and blacks, as it was decades ago, though there is still some of that. It is more the matter of how Western people perceive those from Asian countries. A large percentage of contractors come from Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, China and the Philippines. Many of these freelancers work for low wages, and a good percentage of them simply aren’t very skilled. There is a tendency for those in Western countries to unfairly lump together everyone who “looks” Asian, and to make assumptions about them in terms of their work skills and English-speaking ability. This can especially be problematic for someone who appears to be from an Asian country and is working in an area where most buyers want a native English speaker, such as writing or editing.
I can’t really give you any specific advice here on whether or not to let these issues influence your decision about a profile picture. For one thing, it depends on your personality and priorities. People who lean towards the practical and think they may be discriminated against may decide not to put up a portrait; those who lean towards principle more may want to put up a picture even more, considering it a blessing to not have to deal with those who hold bigoted views. Some women hate the idea of getting preferential treatment based on their looks, while others consider it a perfectly valid use of a natural gift. In the end you’ll have to make your own decisions; just keep an eye out for some of what I’ve mentioned, and make adjustments as necessary.
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