Profiles in Error

Why do people spend so much time and effort on their avatars, and then totally ignore their profiles? Your profile is the second or maybe even the first thing others notice about you, but we give more attention to fitting our fingernails than we do to telling the world who we are. Your profile is your public face, it’s where you represent yourself and tell people what you’re like. It’s your personality and your character. And it doesn’t matter if they’re hard to write or you don’t know what to say or you’re just too wonderful and complex to be described in so few words, your profile is what people judge you by. If you don’t put something in there to give them an idea who’d home, then don’t complain when people treat you like nothing but a pair of tits or a bad suit.

On top of all this, your profile is your welcome mat for people who want to meet you. It’s the doorbell, the knocker, the way in. Walking up to a stranger and just starting a conversation cold is very hard. Your profile at least gives them something to start talking about. Oh, you like to shop? You like to see the amazing sights in this amazing place? You like meeting interesting people from all over the world? Well, pretty thin stuff, but at least now I have something I can talk to you about:

We know people hate writing profiles. No one likes talking about themselves; writing’s hard; we don’t know what to say, we’re afraid we’ll say the wrong thing. We worry about not being clever enough or witty, we feel like we can’t say who we are in a few words.

How often is it that you see someone who really strikes your fancy: a good-looking avatar impeccably dressed, fascinating face, shoes, jewelry, everything perfect. Then you go to their profile and see a few squiggles and stars and a smiley-face heart.

What??? What does that mean? Are they looking for sex? Are they into long-term relationships? Is she a bad graphic artists? Or is he illiterate and can only communicate in crude pictograms? Are they inarticulate? Dyslexic? Or just so shallow that they have nothing to say about themselves that can’t be summed up in a few squiggly lines and flowers and smiley-faces?

Because that’s not going to cut it. There’s no escaping your profile. It’s like your face. It’s stuck there, right on the front of your head. Whatever you put in that box says something about you. Even leaving it blank says something about you, so there’s no avoiding it. Not saying anything says something. Just like your face: wearing a blank expression doesn’t make your face go away. It just makes you look blank. And that’s not a real good look.

And it doesn’t have to be so hard to write. If you can’t write it yourself, ask a friend to describe you. Write down how you are, or how you want your Avatar to be. If you’re not comfortable talking about yourself, talk about your Av as if they’re someone else. Stand outside them and say what they’re like.

Or make a list. Make a list of your avatar’s qualities (loving, funny, romantic, smart-assed, depressed, angry, psychotic… whatever.) Or make a list of things you like, in SL or RL (dancing, live music, role play, french fries, erotic asphyxiation…) Try and be as specific as you can. Generalities like, “I enjoy having fun,” and “Wild about avoiding pain” don’t tell people a lot about you.

Lists make perfectly good profiles and avoid most of the hassles of writing. Almost anything will do if it’s honest, or dishonest in the right way.

One thing you want to be careful of, though, is the hidden message certain words or types of profiles convey. Because how you say things can sometimes be as important as what you say. Here’s some examples:

The Blank Profile — A blank profile says a lot of things, and all of them are bad. At best, the blank profile says you’re a noob and haven’t yet learned about profiles. Either that, or you’re saying “Fuck you all! I don’t care!” or “I’m dumb and trying to make you think that refusing to write a profile is an act of rebellion instead of sheer incompetence,” or “I’m hopelessly boring.” Another possibility is that you’re someone’s alt and don’t care about personalities and are just here to be used in the most abject kinds of sex. Some people think the blank profile means, “Leave me alone.” It doesn’t. It means, “Say whatever you want to me: I don’t care.” If you really want to be left alone, write “Leave me alone!” in your profile so people don’t have to guess.

“Just ask” — If you want to add, “Just ask” to the end of your profile, that’s fine. But if all you have are those two words, then you’re just a step above leaving it blank. Ask you what? How much you weigh? Whether you pee in the pool? Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb? I don’t know a thing about you. That’s why I’m looking at your profile! People who have nothing but “Just ask” in their profile have no right to get offended when others take them up on their offer and ask them if they wanna fuck.  Hey, you told us to ask!

The Link-To-A-Video Profile — Sure, I’ll be happy to follow some link to a song I don’t know by a band I’ve never heard of just so I can try and guess what in the world it has to do with you. If you’re crazy about music, say so and we can talk about it. But don’t send me off to the web like some lackey just so I can watch your crappy video. And be aware: this song is not going to mean the same thing to anyone else as it does to you. Music’s funny that way. The video link, unless it connects to a RL vid of person behind the avatar, is a sign of an unhealthy self-absorption and severely deficient communication skills.

The Graphics Profile — Those graphic gestures and emotes they use in shitty dance clubs to make you think you’re having fun are no more effective when they’re used in your profile. Splashing around a bunch of swirling stars, happy flowers, bursting hearts or baying wolves are signs of someone functioning at the very margins of literacy. In a woman’s profile, they suggest she still sleeps with stuffed animals. In a man’s, that he’s very likely underage.

The Quotation Profile  — Quotations are fine if they express a thought or feeling better than you can yourself. But please, avoid the vapid, generalized clichés that say nothing about you. Something like, “Friendship is the Sunshine in the Garden of Life” not only sounds sappy, but tells a reader nothing except that you like friends, as does 99.99999% of humanity as well. Unless you’re a vapid and meaningless cliche yourself, don’t represent yourself as one.

The Modeling Information Profile — “Miss Pixel 2011”; “2010 Runner-up, Tallest Model In SL”; “Winner, My Blog’s Most Fascinating Person, May, 2011,” &c. should be kept to a minimum. It’s nice that you won something, but inclusion of more than one or two awards is a sure sign of that suffocating narcissism that seems to be the occupational hazard of Second Life models. It also makes you look like you’re whoring for work. Refer agencies and admirers to your Picks, which is the appropriate place for listing accomplishments. On your first page, it’s just bragging.

Tributes to Your Partner — Gushing about your partner and how perfect your relationship is is a great way to get people to leave you strictly alone, and much more effective than just leaving your profile blank. Men will steer clear of you because you’re already taken, and women will resent you because you’re insufferably smug. No one will dance with you or talk to you, and even your friends will start to avoid you. Put your paeans to your lover in the Picks section of your profile, not on the main page. Someone who’s so in love with someone else that they put it on their first page obviously doesn’t have any interest left over for anyone else

Tributes to Your Friends — A variant on the Tribute To Your Partner, using your profile to tell the world that you have friends is just kind of sad. It also means that no one loves you, so you’re making the most of being liked. It also suggests a weak personality, the kind of person who only finds meaning in a group, so it reeks of a  High School mentality. It’s very unlikely anyone’s ever going to IM you and say, “Wow! Tell me all about your cool friends!”

The I-Got-Hurt-But-Now-I’m-Back Profile: There’s several versions of this type of profile, some worse than others. At its worst, it indicates someone who’s still obsessing over a break-up and hoping their ex will read their profile and feel bad (they won’t). More charitably, it means they’ve really been hurt and are still fragile. In both cases, this profile is used by someone looking for sympathy and reasson not to have sex. But if you’re into being someone’s crying towel, go for it.

The Funny Alphabets Profile — They were cute and interesting at first, but now the overuse of letters from foreign alphabets denotes someone whose level of sophistication is stuck somewhere around the poopoo/caca level and thinks other people’s are too. They’re not, and you’re annoying. I once met a woman who’d managed to spell her name in upside down and backwards letters. It was just too precious by half and I quickly unmet her.

Cousin to the Graphics Profile, using weird symbols and characters to spell things out tells the world you think foreign alphabets are damned funny. Even worse, it tells the world that you think other people find them damned funny too. It’s the SL version of laughing at someone’s accent, and the use of non-standard characters indicates a simple mind that’s easily amused;  someone who thinks they can decorate their way out of having nothing to say.

The Toxic Profile: “I won’t do this, I’m not interested in that. /If you can’t think of a more creative opening than “Hello how are you?” then don’t waste my time!/I prefer blonde, left-handed Bohemian women in their 30’s who’ve been married at least once. All else keep walking.” The Toxic profile spells out in great detail just what you cannot be if you want to talk to this person. Their intentions may be good (maybe they really are sick of hearing “Hello, how are you?”) but the result is to make them look like petty, stuck-up, egotistical little bitches who deserve to sit there ignored. I mean, who wants to walk into a meat-grinder like that? Who wants to know a person who’s so damned petty and bitter and small-minded?
I once ignored a toxic profile and started dancing with a woman who soon directed me to her picks, which were ten pages of instructions on what to talk about and how to talk about it with her, down to words you couldn’t use and how long to wait respectfully for her response before making another statement. She was fun to piss off, but that was about it.

The I-Can’t-Think-of-Anything-Clever-to-Say Profile — Well if that’s the case, for God’s sake don’t take up precious profile space bragging about it. No one expects you to be Shakespeare or Woody Allen. Googol some quotation sites and look under ‘love’ and pick something you like. Is that so hard?

You got more? Write us…

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About Aiden Swain

Editor/Publisher, Humm Magazine: Journal of Cybersexuality

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