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Profile picture worth a thousand words


The Life Less Traveled


January 30, 2013
You can tell a lot about a person from their Facebook profile picture. I'm talking about that postage stamp-size photo that accompanies every status update and adorns their wall. Most of them fall into seven major categories that reveal far more about the person than they intended.

The Casual Snapshot

This is the classic Facebook profile pic. It says one of three things about that person:

1. Hey, this is me, an average Joe on an average day.

2. I worked for hours and took at least 20 pictures to look like an average Joe on an average day.

3. My wife stuck this on here.

The Punchline

This is anything funny. A rubber chicken, an amusing celebrity (think Richard Simmons or Mr. T), a silly expression or outlandish costume. This one says:

1. I don't take myself too seriously.

2. I hide my insecurity behind a mask of humor.

3. I really am Richard Simmons or Mr. T.

The Wishful Thinker

The Wishful Thinker takes many forms. It may be a studio picture, wedding photo or other professional portrait. The picture taken 20 years or 20 pounds ago also falls into this category. A variation of this is the sultry glamour shot with special lighting and a feather boa. This one says:

1. I value Facebook and only want to give my friends my best.

2. I'm living in denial.

3. I'm living in denial.

The Long Shot

In the Long Shot, the person is too far away from the camera to make out any distinguishing features. This one tells me:

1. I am proud of the landscape around me.

2. All of my friends have incredible eyesight.

3. I don't know how to crop a picture.

The Couple Pose

The Couple Pose is one of the most popular by far and the one I personally use. A variation of the Couple Pose is the Insecure Couple Pose, where one of them is physically holding on to the other as if to say, "Mine, mine, mine!" Either variety tells me:

1. Back off folks, I'm taken.

2. I really did find someone to date or marry me and this is photographic evidence.

3. I finally learned Photoshop and just pasted this random stranger in beside me.

The Kid/Pet Substitute

This one is totally confusing, especially if the person's name is only vaguely familiar. These people substitute a picture of their child or pet for a picture of themselves. This tells me:

1. I am so proud of my child or pet.

2. I am not easy on the eyes.

3. I am a fugitive from justice and don't want to be identified.

The Family Portrait

Shell Game

This is a variation of the Kid/Pet Substitute. In the Family Portrait Shell Game, the person actually appears in the picture but uses their adorable family to divert attention away from themselves. It works like this: Hey, look, it's Frank. Boy, he's really put on some weigh — awww, look at those kids! Wow, Frank has a beautiful family! It's a classic bait and switch, a Facebook shell game that any New York city street hustler would recognize in an instant. This one says:

1. I'm a genius.

2. I'm dishonest.

3. I'm banned from casinos in three states.

OK, OK, maybe I'm being a bit superficial here. Maybe you really can't tell that much about a person from their Facebook profile or any other picture. Maybe I'm making snap judgments based only on appearance.

Don't we all?

Online or in real life, how many times do we judge people based purely on what we see on the outside. We make instant assumptions about the person's background, education, financial status, likability and general worth.

Fortunately, there's a God who knows us inside-out, a God who knows we're so much more than what meets the eye. A picture may be a worth a thousand words, but God's words about you are worth far more than that.

The Bible tells us, "People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." You are not your weight. You are not your wrinkles. You are not your clothes. You are a unique, beautiful creation of God, a masterpiece crafted by the King of the universe.

Imagine if your Facebook profile picture had no image, just the word "Beautiful," and beside it, you'll see that God hasn't just clicked "Like," He's clicked "Love" over and over again. It would be the only accurate and honest picture online.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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