Like nearly everything else I do, I created my Second Life profile with a goal in mind. I have a ‘target market’. I’ve crafted my profile to appeal to people who like to do and talk about the things we might be mutually interested in.
It works. My profile acts as ‘chat-bait’, and strangers will often start conversations with: “You have a very interesting profile” or “You seem to do a lot of things in Second Life!” Typically, I enjoy those conversations even if they’re fleeting. Some of these conversation starters become longer-term acquaintances and friends.
My profile (including all my tabs) is comprehensive, professional, up to date, and a good place for me to share my interests and the projects I get up to. If I had to classify it, it’d be a bit more like a CV (Curriculum Vitae, or résumé), than say, a casual social media profile. I don’t expect everyone to write their profile the way I write mine, but I do wonder what people are thinking when they write their profiles.
When I consider the purpose of profiles, I think it’s fair to say that profiles are more for people who don’t know you already, than for those that already do.
There was once a time when people grew to know each other slowly. Today, we have profiles.
If I don’t already know you, I might see you nearby. I might see you come up on radar, read a message from you in a group chat or local chat, or get an IM from you. At that point, I will read your name and decide whether to learn more about you.
If I open your profile, the first thing I’ll see is your picture, which answers my question: “how do you represent yourself?” If the profile picture you’ve chosen elicits a negative emotional response in me (for whatever reason), I’ll close your profile right there and then. Yes, I can make snap judgements like that, and I know they are not always right. If I see something interesting however, I’ll read your Biography (or About).
Like it or not, many people will judge you by your profile well before they recognise the real you. In a way, I can see value in reading profiles with shoddy, offensive, negative or threatening information – it’s much easier for me to dismiss you as someone I may not want to get to know better, saving both of us time and energy better spent elsewhere. In fact, I’ll often invest more time and energy with a newbie with a sparse or empty profile than with the type I’ve described above. At the very least, they’re not repelling me away.
The downside of my approach however, is when the profile does not accurately represent the person behind it. I don’t mean the person at the keyboard, I mean the person who you are projecting with your avatar. The difference is subtle, but exists.
When I approach virtual worlds on a “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) basis. I have little interest in the typist at first; this interest grows over time. Instead, I take great interest the avatar, which to me represents the total of their choices, preferences and abilities to date.
For example, if you describe yourself in your profile as a “bitch”, then I interpret that you are (and I use my definition of what that word means to me, not yours). If you describe yourself in your profile as “an optimist”, then I will take you at face value, until you show otherwise. My personal list of profile turn-ons and turn-offs is long, and probably the subject of a future post.
This may sound like a rather literal approach to profile interpretation, but my experience tells me that I’m not alone in making assessments on the basis of the information I’m told, until your actions provide new information on which to make a new and better informed assessment.
Sometimes, a profile may get in the way of that further assessment. Sometimes it opens the door. What does your profile say about you?