Like every mother I know, I think my kids are pretty cute. Since the time my daughter was born five years ago, one or both of my children have usually filled the place of my Facebook profile picture. Most recently I had a picture of my 3-year-old son cuddling his best friend.
What does my Facebook picture say about me?
Facebook tells us, “Your profile picture is the picture that friends see next to your name everywhere on Facebook. This is how people recognise you… This is your chance to feature a unique image that represents who you are or what you care about.”
Well, I would say my latest picture said I care about my children, kindness and friendship. But… did it help people to recognise me? And what does it say about who I am? If I am not there at all, it’s probably not what I really want to be saying.
One personal branding expert suggested that this type of Facebook profile picture suggests, "I am my children" and "I don’t matter anymore." Others wrote that by using pictures of my children, instead of myself, I am telling people that I used to be fun and fabulous, but now all I can talk about is kid stuff. Worse still, “I don’t exist anymore.”
I run one small business. I am co-founding another one. I study. I am lucky enough to have a number of close and truly fabulous friends. I am in a book club. I am doing a home renovation. AND I adore my immediate and extended family. I do exist, but I can see that I am not projecting any of this by being absent in my own profile picture.
What is my Facebook profile picture saying to my kids?
I want my children to grow up with a strong sense of self, knowing clearly who they are and what they have to offer the world. Growing up in a digitised world, I want them to ultimately create their own positive social media presence that best represents them to ensure their wellbeing and future success.
Our Facebook profile pictures may seem trivial in the scheme of our complete digital footprint, but actually Facebook continues to be the leading social media platform across countries and generations. Even with privacy settings turned on, people can still see our Facebook profile picture. I want to guide my kids to say something great about themselves with this picture, not misrepresent themselves with someone else's identity, as I have been doing.
I like my friends' pictures that have my friends in them.
Using my own friendship circle as a case study, I can see that I am not alone in posting profile pictures of my children in place of myself on Facebook. Like me they have busy and interesting lives and are not solely defined by their children. On reflection I can see that I tend to like and comment more on pictures where my friends are present too. I like seeing them living their lives.
So, let’s not be “disappearing mothers”, because we do matter and we do exist.
I changed my profile picture today. My daughter is still there, but so am I. It captures us having fun together and I am happy with what this says about me.
What do you have for your profile picture?
Eliza Kennedy is the co-founder of Be Social. Be Smart, an education and training initiative that partners with secondary schools in Australia to empower students to be thoughtful, effective digital citizens and build their personal brand online. Having worked in marketing, recruitment and employer branding in London, South America, Hong Kong and Australia, she has had an insider’s view into the social hiring strategies of some of the world’s biggest employers. You can find Eliza on Facebook,LinkedIn and Twitter.