How to Create a Positive Feeling With Your Avatar

You can impact other's feelings about you through the use of your avatar. Researchers at the University of Texas tested the types of avatars people used and found that the connotations associated with an avatar impacted people's perception of the person using that avatar.[1] To avoid negative perceptions, there are numerous things to consider when making or reshaping your online avatar.


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    Take care what your avatar is wearing and the color connotations. Costumes or outfits that represent villainous characters, menacing gangs, historic figures, etc. will likely not be received warmly, but will be viewed as a threat by many people. The University of Texas study is suggestive that authoritarian or anti-social uniforms result in negative reactions from others.[2] Also pay attention to the colors used; lighter colors might be more effective depending on the context of the avatar.
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    Prefer a real photo of you over a cartoon. It doesn't get more genuine than the real you. Patrick Winfield says that use of a photo "can bring you more credibility and trust." Dan Benjamin points out that humans are hardwired to remember a face, so it makes sense to make the most of this evolutionary reality.[3]
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    Avoid using awkward angles or "blocks with props". People seeking to connect online are more likely to want to see you, not a creative angle or favorite teddy bear obscuring half your face. By all means, photograph your more attractive profile, but don't make it an obscuring shot.[4].
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    Try to make it the age you are now! OK, so you looked adorable at 3, but unless you have the renown of someone like Rove, you probably won't pull it off because there are no other reference points for people to check out "the real you" (Rove is on TV almost each week). Same goes for using your pet, your favorite drawing, or an out-of-focus blur. And the least effective things are a blank space or relying on the generic site avatar; these tend to be suggestive of spammers, affiliate marketers gone ballistic, or people lacking in real interest.[5]
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    Smile. A smile is an almost universal means for showing lack of aggression and establishes a warm and welcoming demeanor. A successful avatar helps people connect with you because they see the person you really are and a smile counts for more than words can ever say.
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    Select a good avatar from the outset. Changing it too frequently causes confusion for people and can lead people to distrust you or fail to recognize you.[6] There are always exceptions, but unless you have aged rapidly, or had plastic surgery or you're famous, maybe the exceptions don't apply to your fragile logo-building at this point in time. Be very, very certain that frequent changes won't damage your instant recognition factor.[7]


  • Many avatar experts advise keeping the same avatar across the internet. This advice probably holds if you're trying to develop a single online "brand" or "personality" type but if you're into various different online activities, you might like to consider "grouping" your avatars to suit each type of activity instead.
  • If you're trying to hide or you are creating a fictitious character, the rules change for you. By all means develop your persona differently; just expect differing reactions and for most people, probably reduced attachment. However, this said, it may well depend on where you are placing an anonymous or fictional avatar; for some sites, this is simply more acceptable and better understood than on others. For some, keeping back the "real you" photo represents that moment of truth and total trust in the person with whom you share the photo.[8]


  • Not having an avatar is better than having a bad avatar. So choose carefully, and ask trusted friends and family members for their opinions before you decide to put up an avatar.
  • It isn't a good idea to pinch someone else's face off the free photos online. Someone will just end up asking you is that really you and then it's embarrassing when you have to explain you're actually 10 years older, have a lot less hair and don't fit into the same clothes as your avatar...

Things You'll Need

  • Quality photo

Sources and Citations

  1. Research shows avatars can negatively affect users
  2., Research shows avatars can negatively affect users
  3. Hivelog, Why Your Avatar Matters
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