Crop out the party


If your online persona were a product, your profile picture would be the packaging.

First impressions are visual, and your profile picture can be the only shot you get at putting a face to your online persona. It only takes 40 milliseconds to make a judgment about a photo, according to a 2014 study for Psychological Science about misleading first impressions.

If you think about it, your profile picture is actually a great opportunity to show yourself off at your best angle. I can’t count how many times I’ve met people in real life for the first time and had a huge zit, smudged makeup or looked like something somebody dug up and dressed in my clothes.

That being said, context is key. This study also said tailoring your picture to the social media platform you’re using affects the type of impression you make. Different platforms have different purposes, so you shouldn’t use your Tinder profile pic on LinkedIn.

With summer coming soon, you might be tempted to change your profile picture on social media to reflect how much sangria you’ve been drinking, how hard you’ve worked to get that slammin’ booty or how much you partied with your crew on vacation — you might be draping your arms around them because you’re so drunk, or because of how much you all love each other. No context, however, can justify any of these.

A good exercise is to read your status updates, captions or tweets in the voice of your profile picture’s version of you. Do you sound like a drunker, more self-absorbed or more obnoxious version of yourself? Yes? Then you should probably change your profile picture.

When someone reads your words in combination with your photo, it creates an idea of you in their mind, and you want that idea to be consis¬tent with how you are in real life.

The good news is every time you change your profile picture, it’s an opportunity to reinvent your personal brand. When I cut off my dyed-purple locks to a soccer mom-length bob, it helped me come into my voice as a young writer. And now I’m here.

So go forth and smile in your pro¬file pictures.

But please, no selfies on LinkedIn.

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Raegan Hedley is a sassy millennial who aspires to someday become a kick-ass business professional. In the meantime, she writes about sweets on her blog at and tweets way too much (@raegjules).