With the right photo, your Facebook text hardly matters
Uploaded a new profile picture recently? Your profile photo tells the viewer what they need to know to make an impression of you, no words are even necessary.
Research was carried out on 195 college students, who viewed a mock Facebook profile of someone they thought was another student. The profile included a photo and an “about me” statement. Participants were required to rate how extroverted they thought the student was on a scale of 1 (least extroverted) to 7 (most extroverted) based on the photo and text.
One of four profiles were viewed. The extrovert profile showed a photo of a person socialising with friends, with the text “I’m happiest hanging out with a big group of friends”. The introvert profile showed a photo of a person alone on a park bench, with the text “I’m happiest curled up in my room with a good book”. The other two profiles were mixed, e.g. the photo suggested an extrovert and the text an introvert.
Researchers wanted to find out which mattered more, the photo or the text in deciding whether a person is an extrovert or an introvert. The results showed the photo to be most important. When the extroverted photo was shown, the text barely mattered in the decision of whether the person was introvert/extrovert. Most participants rated the photo as extrovert. If the photo suggested an introvert, people did pay attention to the text. If the text suggested an introvert then they were rated as one.
In a separate study, 84 college students looked at one of the photos or read a text profile used in the previous experiment above. They had to rely simply on the photo or the text to rate the persons extroversion. Results found that participants who read introverted descriptions rated the person as significantly more introverted than those who only saw the introverted photos, suggesting that text is influential too.
However, this could be down to people paying most attention to information that could be viewed as negative. Text and photos alone are used to build an impression of someone. If your profile picture fits what people expect of you then observers are less likely to look closely at the rest of your profile.
Van Der Heide, B., D’Angelo, J. & Schumaker, E. (2012). The Effects of Verbal Versus Photographic Self-Presentation on Impression Formation in Facebook. Journal of Communication, 62(1), 98. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01617.x