The Online Love Search: A legitimate profile picture

On: March 30, 2011
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About ibtisam omer
Hi and hello I am twenty three years old and for the past four years I have studied sociology and media studies in three different places: Stockholm, UK and Hong Kong. I graduated at the University of Essex in July and after that spent a few weeks interning at Global Grind in NY. Now I am here at the UvA and Im just about exploring the fundamentals of my degree, so far so nice. Other than this I was born and raised in Stockholm Sweden , to Eritrean parents. Stockholm being an immensly integrated city, I grew up enjoying a diverse cultral atmosphere. I travel a lot , I eat even more and I love social netwoking platforms; its beauty lays in the opportunity it gives people to exploit a public space introducing individual self projections. ibtisam


So following the 48hrs of eagerly anticipating to see my profile picture set up on my new profile, which should ‘guarantee me up to an 80 percent greater chance in meeting a potential partner’ I have  been sent an email, stating my picture has been rejected. REJECTED! The dating site I am registered with refuses to recognize the image I selected as a true representation of myself.

This raises the question of how images are to be recognized as legitimate. I cannot even begin to consider the protocols followed for when scanning and approving imagery. How are such consensus reached? I am imagining a room filled with interns just raiding through potential profile pictures for hours upon hours.  

In the email I received they proceed to explain the importance of selecting an image that is considered a real representation of oneself, as well as it having to be easily recognizable. Pictures of others (they give children as an example) are not allowed, followed by nude and sexually explicit photos. For legislative reasons adverts and logos are also not permitted to be set up as a profile picture.

Somewhat aware of their regulations beforehand,  I suggested a picture I felt comfortable with. Although the picture was not of me, It was a picture of a black girl with curly hair sitting by a poolside in a white bikini facing away from the camera (courtesy of Google image search for ‘ East African girls’).  Solid photo I thought! I am African and black with curly hair, that could have very easily been me..but it was not. The was picture taken from an article in Essence magazine discussing African American girls not liking to get their hair wet, and therefore avoid swimming(very interesting read).

Prior to selecting that image I had  spent two hours roaming through random picture of women  online that would be similar to my ethnic origin. I began by entering my own name :  to see what comes up, unfortunately Ibtisam Omer is not as common in Eritrea (my home country) but more common in Arab speaking countries, so I had a series of  pictures featuring North African and middle Eastern women. Abandoning the approach of using my name in the search, I simply focused on physical features.  I am east African and therefore, began by entering ‘East African women’, ‘ black women’,  ‘East African women living in Europe’,  ‘ European Africans’,  ‘East African models’  and finally  ‘mixed race Africans’.

Perhaps not the most suitable attempt..but as an individual embarking upon her first online dating endeavour I am not too confident with posting an actual image of myself. That being the case for many reasons, mainly due to the fear of all things imagined to go wrong. The multiple ‘what ifs’ which I am sure has crossed the mind of many other initial users of such social platforms. Or simply the fact that one feels other images not of oneself does a more just representation of the Self.

I understand the imperative concerns regarding usage of pictures not actually being you, but prior to uploading the picture I already filled out numerous pages of questions discussing my preferences and personality traits. Those should qualify for something more than 20 percent of the overall success rate. Perhaps I am the unrealistic one for assuming people are more interested in the persona and individual interests because it’s on a different social platform than that of the outside world.

Either way I am still morally indecisive as to who/what picture I am going to eventually upload, whatever it may be,  I need to do it asap! as the site keeps sending me emails reminding me of the potential partners I am missing out on, as I have failed to submit a profile picture. So before I ascend upon another Google search of pictures that ‘could’ be me,  I am going to evaluate the safety and privacy that is offered to registered members, and who knows I might settle for my very own picture anyways.

Here I am!

This post is the first in a series of posts reflecting my experiences as an individual seeking an alleged soul mate online. This is part of my academic research and I hope to at least once a week update the blog with posts discussing my findings. There are numerous different types of online dating sites, which I will also be looking into, I will only remain registered with but will dig as much as possible into other similar sites.

In the next post I will be discussing the act of  ‘borrowing’ images of others for your own profile picture. Such as taking pictures of people from other social networking sites or even celebrities and declaring it to be yourself.

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