Should I include a photo of myself on my blog?
January 11, 2009 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Should I include a photo of myself on my blog?

I'm trying to decide if I want a photo of myself on my blog, which gets around 2,000 page views a day. I write it under my own name, and my full name can be found on the blog. Looking it up under whois and then doing a little more research could lead you to my home address. There's nothing controversial about what I write.

The photo would be in the "profile" section. I'm female. The photo I was thinking of using is flattering, but not hot-cha-cha.

Will I get stalkers peering through my windows? Am I being paranoid? What are the pluses and minuses of having a photo of the writer?
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In my opinion, there's really no detriment to not having a picture up. People do, more often than not, judge you by your appearance, and the demographic statistics implied by your appearance. Not having a picture up on your blog increases the chance that people will read your writing for the writing, instead of projecting all sorts of prejudices onto your blogposts - e.g. She's a blonde, what could she possibly know about topics XYZ, etc.

I guess the question is, why do you want a picture up on your blog?
posted by Phire at 5:35 PM on January 11, 2009

I prefer to see who is writing. So I'd say it's a plus. I don't know about stalkers though. *gets out binoculars*
posted by KateHasQuestions at 5:35 PM on January 11, 2009

You have a blog. You want people to get to know you by reading what you have to say. How harmful is it to have a picture to go along with it? There's just as much likelihood of someone discovering you in real life and becoming "obsessed" with you as there is someone on the internet. Furthermore, there's just as much likelihood of someone becoming obsessed with you because of what you have to say rather than what you look like.

Stop worrying about it. Start your conversations.
posted by miasma at 5:39 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks to things like the Wayback Machine, once you decide to deprivatize something, you effectively cannot reprivatize it if you change your mind in the future.

I am not saying you should or should not publish a photo. All I'm saying is that, if you're on the fence, you might want to take the likes of the Wayback Machine into consideration.
posted by Flunkie at 5:48 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you link to a flickr, facebook, or similar account with your photo? Is there a photo of you anywhere on the internet tagged with your name?

Then they already know what you look like.
posted by 517 at 5:54 PM on January 11, 2009

In my experience, people like to see faces, but it's not critical when they can't. We live in weird times regarding the definition of "privacy" and it is sometimes nice to take control whenever we can. Is your image already available online through other sources, like a school or newspaper website?

Also, you can make your physical address info private in your domain registrations so that a whois doesn't lead folks exactly to your front door.
posted by annathea at 5:57 PM on January 11, 2009

I'm female. I have my photo on my blog. My blog gets a little more traffic than yours. At the point at which I decided to put a photo on my blog, there were already photos of me all over the internet and I wanted one sort of normallish headshot of me to be the one that people would see when they came to my blog. Mine is actually on the main page not the about page. I'm a 40 year old woman and I don't really have the stalker problem. In fact I don't think I've ever had any problem at all with personal information on the Internet, but I may be exceptionally lucky or savvy. I htink my readers like to be able to put a face to a name and I like the personalizing effect the photo has but I don't think there's any reason you have to have one if you are having misgivings.

Fun fact: I've had the photo up for over a year now and I just realized a month or so ago that it's backwards [i.e. my nose is pierced on the wrong side]. I guess I'll leave it, it would be too weird to flip it.
posted by jessamyn at 6:00 PM on January 11, 2009

Yes, you are being paranoid.
posted by grouse at 6:00 PM on January 11, 2009

jessamyn has a photo?!? but seriously, I like to 'see' who I'm reading. even in the 70's, I always checked the back book flap often (Issac Asimov was never a looker). I say post a photo and give a link to yr flickr.
posted by dawson at 6:16 PM on January 11, 2009

Use a cartoon drawing of yourself.
posted by rokusan at 6:28 PM on January 11, 2009

Simple risk reward decision. You do not state the reason why you would put it up, so I do not know the reward. I also do not know what you look like. Your looks could cause an obsession or kill one depending. The risks as I see it are twofold. One is some sort of identity theft and the other is stalker. The probability of either is real real low. It is one of those risks that is so unlikely to happen, but if it does, it is a big deal.

If I was a betting man, and I am, I would bet that there will be no repercussions from posting your picture that you would not have otherwise. I just don't see the reward.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:31 PM on January 11, 2009

I don't think a picture or lack of one really matters. I do however think your personal safety does.

As one woman on the internet to another, I kindly suggest fix your whois listing. There is no reason anyone on the internet needs to have instant access to your home address.
posted by crustix at 6:32 PM on January 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

I used to have a "no pictures" policy on my blog, but occasionally someone would take a picture that was insane or ridiculous and I would wish I could make a blog entry about it, so I relented and instituted an "only insane and ridiculous pictures" policy. I got a stalker anyway, so I sort of threw up my hands about the whole thing and now I just post any picture I feel like posting, even if you can tell I have boobs in it. Immediately after I instituted the new policy, my stalker disappeared! Possible morals: a) I look terrible, whoops, or b) the whole thing is a basic crapshoot and you really shouldn't worry about it.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 6:45 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a reader, I prefer not knowing what the author looks like. Putting a face to words 'de-abstracts' the writing. I generally prefer to think of the authors I read as noble and timeless thinkers similar in appearance to the busts of the Greek philosophers. When it turns out they look substantially unlike a timeless Greek philosopher, sometimes I question whether I want to continue to read them. Of course, I don't read too many personality based blogs.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 6:47 PM on January 11, 2009

It sounds like youre worried about gaining stalkers purely from the photo (otherwise, they would already be tracking you down)

In my opinion, a picture makes a blog much more inviting and satisfies more of the curiosity of who is writing it, given a blog is usually more of an opinion and the identity and perspective are what makes it different from an anonymous webpage. So i think the picture would help readers identify more with you. I personally seem to enjoy reading blogs where I have a good idea of who is writing it.

But, though I dont think putting the picture will attract stalkers or anything, there still could be risks. Many of the blogs I follow are written by people who live near me and I have (as well as many of them among one another) identified the writers going about their daily lives because of the picture (in the gym, the beach, at Starbucks, etc). Coincidence, yes, but if it were the case that you didnt want people identifying you going about everyday life, not to mention the stalker situation, the picture may be a big jump against that.
posted by nzydarkxj at 7:26 PM on January 11, 2009

Since you mentioned this is a personal blog, I would prefer maybe a cartoon drawing of you, as rokusan said and I currently use (or plan to). Knowing that it's a personal blog already establishes the fact that some person is writing it, not a machine, so I don't need any more identity confirmation.

If this was a professional blog, however, a real-life photo would be in order.
posted by curagea at 7:39 PM on January 11, 2009

I recall a (possibly early days of blogging) O'Reilly article saying that a photo helps people relate to your blog posts. If you've already identified yourself as female, I can't see one non-revealing photograph encouraging stalkers. A photo probably wouldn't hurt, and it might help a bit.
posted by paulg at 8:40 PM on January 11, 2009

I've been online since 94. (Earlier if you count Compuserve in the 80's). I used to have a 'no pictures on the internet' policy. every time a photo of me was out there, it was never used in a happy or pleasant fashion.

anytime a photo was out there, it was always used to put me down somehow, and the reaction was always "oh, shit. you're not hot. i thought you would be hot. wow, now i have no interest in your opinions or your intelligence, because you don't meet my personal standard for attractiveness" or something like that. it got pretty demoralizing way fast.

I started a blog a few years ago that became very, very popular, and people started asking for pictures. the people asking for a photo and "why isn't there a photo' were always male. These same people were never asking guys who were blogging for their photos.

It freaked me out.

I was not ready to put my photo up and be subjected to the Digg/whatever culture where the people reading my blog would evaluate my talent or worth based on their opinion of my fuckability. That the point of my blog was the content and my opinion, not what I looked like.

What made things weirder was that I was a female blogging in a very male dominated subject, so it was definitely "omg, chick who understands this stuff!" and I had a lot of drooling guys at first. And I didn't want to be like some of the other women who were blogging in this subject area who were definitely using their looks to gain an audience. The blog wasn't about me or my breasts, it was about - well, what it was about.

Then one day I got tired of being scared of what a bunch of frustrated post-adolescent boys thought or would say (i mean, I'm the admin, i hold the delete power) so I found a cute photo that also happened to be relevant and i put it on the blog.

it was a non-issue. maybe somewhere someone is commenting "omg, i thought this micawber person was hot" but i haven't seen it. then again i dont' go looking for it.

i pay to have my whois info anonymized - don't underestimate the importance of that. if nothing else, it will stop people from calling you at odd hours to sell you stuff, if your blog starts to get any kind of traffic.

additionally i am very careful about not letting people know where I work - my public linkedin profile, for example, does NOT show my present position to the entire world. ymmv there.

mr. micawber also helps in flagging if he thinks i'm being too public about where i live, what i'm doing, where i'm going, etc. i don't always agree with him but i usually take his advice. unless i think that doing so is going to undermine the authenticity of what i'm writing, i'll err on the side of caution. i rarely find that it compromises that.

heed the comments that you cannot privitize something once it's out there. people who want to find shit about you can and will spend the time to dig it up. so you'd be better off starting out cautiously and then making decisions rather than jumping into it with both feet.
posted by micawber at 10:26 PM on January 11, 2009 [5 favorites]

Split the difference, get a nice drawing of you. It'll be close enough that people who know you already will say "that's her" without thinking about it, but no whackos will recognize you from it, unless it's really accurate.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:35 PM on January 11, 2009

Thanks to things like the Wayback Machine, once you decide to deprivatize something, you effectively cannot reprivatize it if you change your mind in the future.
The internet archive will remove their history of your site if you wish them to.

As one woman on the internet to another, I kindly suggest fix your whois listing.
Changing your whois won't remove it completely as there are sites that archive it.
posted by JonB at 11:43 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've never posted a picture of myself anywhere online. I don't see any real benefit to myself for doing so. I do share quite a bit of personal information though, so I guess if someone really wanted to find me, they could.

I guess I'm saying that if the pro's outweigh the con's, go for it. It's not like the people who read your blog are suddenly going to realise that you live three doors down. They'd probably have figured that out already.
posted by Solomon at 11:57 PM on January 11, 2009

Nthing the "cartoon" or sketch suggestion. I have a somewhat realistic but "cartoonish" drawing of myself in the top corner of my blog. This seems to discourage "I'd hit it""/"I'd not hit it"-comments and, at the same time, gives the reader the feeling that they know who is writing the blog.
One advantage of putting up a picture (or realistic drawing) is that new readers will instantly know whether you're male or female, black or white, young or old - without having to read a list of boring data or a CV from which these things can be deduced. The same point can also be interpreted as a disadvantage, of course, if you prefer to speak from a neutral rather than a subjective standpoint, or want to avoid gender or racial bias.

There are numerous pictures of myself on the internet, also with my full name on them. I don't think that that's a security risk per se, but in my blog, I prefer to let my writing speak for me. As a female, one of the big appeals of blogging is being able to avoid for once the constant judgment of appearances that is unavoidable in RL.
posted by The Toad at 1:35 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, usability guru Jacob Nielson constantly advises people to add a photo to their blog, his reasoning being that it enhances your credibility/authority, and facilitates networking. See this alertbox post for more details. That said, Nielson is a) mostly talking about commercial or academic blog user, and b) is often just wrong about these things, despite his standing as usability "expert".

I'd say, privacy issues aside, it depends on the tone of your blog. If it's tackling a non-fiction subject, something where the authority of your voice is important, then a photo will be a good thing. If it's a personal blog, where the focus is on you, then how you present yourself is up to you - a real photo, a cartoon, or no image. If it's fiction, or another subject where the readers' perception of you as an author may negatively impact on their appreciation of the work, then leave the image off.
posted by iivix at 2:00 AM on January 12, 2009

I am blogger myself. I do blog with my name (url gives it out). I usually give more credibality to the posts with real name and pictures.
Since you are already blogging with real name photo is not necessary but will add.
posted by thejeshgn at 4:14 AM on January 12, 2009

Google your name, then click the "Images" link at the top of the page. This may help make (take?) the decision for you.
posted by msittig at 6:01 AM on January 12, 2009

I blog, and have blogged, under my own name, with photos readily available of me, for more than 10 years. Granted, the photos ten years ago were considerably hotter, but what can you do.

My address is also prominently displayed on my site, as is my phone number, and while I have had had some interesting correspondents over the years, I have never had a stalker turn up at my door or even crank callers from the interpipes.

In my experience, crazy obsessive online people are much, much more likely to stalk and harass you online than in person. On the rare occasions when I've had to deal with the "I know where you live and I'm going to fuck you up" brigade, my response has always been a very bored "Dude, everyone knows where I live. Put up or shut up."

So far I'm not dead.

Caveat: I used to write about sex, a topic that was much more inclined to bring out the borderline whack jobs. Now I write about websites, code and clients and I haven't had a weirdo in literally years. It's a little disappointing now that I come to think of it, actually.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:01 AM on January 12, 2009

I like the cartoon idea.

If you're a chick, I wouldn't slap my picture on the front page of my blog so everyone can see it. Likewise, I don't slap my e-mail right on the front page so anyone can find it. This cuts down on the pervy e-mails that will come from some people, since (a) they don't instantly know what I look like and (b) can instantly write me to let me know how fugly and fat I am. Yes, this used to happen. No, I've never once heard of this happening to a guy.

However, I do have pictures of myself online (mostly for craft-related reasons, i.e. photo of me wearing garment I made or something), and that hasn't fazed anyone. Then again, there's probably not that many guys reading craft blogs, and the photos aren't on there by default- they're on the front and scroll off when more posts go up.

Unfortunately, being a chick online, publicly, can have nasty effects that guys just won't have to deal with. I haven't had major issues since hiding the e-mail, but I'm also not a popular blogger (thank the gods).
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:27 AM on January 12, 2009

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