Why Do Social Networks Hate My Avatar?

Ok, I am really starting to get a complex about my avatar. For the second time this year, I have tried to join a social/business network and been told by the administrator that they don’t let people stay in their network unless a “real” photo is used in the profile. In other words, “No Avatars Allowed.” The network this time is a CAD-related ning network named Space Claiming.

Pam Broviak\'s Avatar - Banned for being non-real
Pam Broviak's Avatar - Banned for being non-real

Because I already have blogged about “avatar discrimination” here, I will not go into all that again. But each time this happens, I cannot help but wonder why the network administrator makes this decision. Are they so superficial that they need to actually see what someone looks like in order to adequately judge if someone is worthy of being admitted into their special group. They certainly cannot think I am nonhuman – I post blogs, upload photos, comment on other’s posts, respond to messages. Maybe they hate the way my avatar looks. All of these thoughts go through my mind, and then I realize if someone can only accept my contributions if they can see what I look like, then I probably don’t want to be part of that group anyway. It is kind of like what happens in high school, but I never thought 28 years after graduation, I would still be dealing with that mentality.

Maybe next time, I will just upload a photo of my crazy Aunt Sophie – God rest her soul. Would network administrators prefer this because it is real?

My crazy Aunt Sophie (now deceased).
My Aunt Sophie (now deceased).


4 Replies to “Why Do Social Networks Hate My Avatar?”

  1. Dear Pam,

    I fully understand your point of view and agree with most of your statements. However, when we started SpaceClaiming just a few weeks ago, we decided to adopt a non-anonymity approach in order to encourage people to be responsible and accountable for their contributions. We didn’t and don’t force anyone to upload a picture. We simply suggest or recommend a profile with first and last name and a picture.

    We would like to create a community of CAD professionals where people feel comfortable interacting with each other, and the connection can migrate easily from online to real life. If you like to use your SecondLife avatar I’m OK with that, I will just let you know that other users may feel suspicious or consider you a level “B” member of the community.

    I agree with you that the free use of an avatar can be a great option for many communities, but we don’t feel that avatars must be always an option for all communities, and for our communtiy, we’d like to encourage real pictures and names. No one is banned from SpaceClaiming for using an avatar, nor do we have any such policy, although we recommend that our community members use their real names and pictures for the reasons mentioned above. We invite memebers who use avatars to replace them with real pictures in the hopes of promoting a community where the potential problems of anonymity are avoided and the benefits of face-to-face/real picture and real name communication are enhanced.

    Franco Folini

  2. Thanks Franco for explaining – the message I got from your administrator made it sound like this was a rule: if I wanted to stay a member I would have to post a real photo. I guess because I used my real name and real information about myself that anyone could easily check out, I didn’t feel that I was acting anonymously. I just really don’t have that many photos of myself available.

    The only time I have felt a need to use a real photo on an online network was recently when I set up a site for our local rotary club. These are people who see me everyday – most have known me since I was a little girl so I realized they would be visiting our Rotary site expecting to see a person they recognize. A real photo there made sense to me. While people with whom I interact online – many who visit with me in Second Life, would visit an online site expecting to see the avatar they see in Second Life.

    As for people judging my abilities as a CAD professional or even as a person due to the type of photo I upload, I really hesitate to interact with someone who comes to a conclusion about me based on the photo instead of my experience and abilities. Again, to me it goes back to the high school thing – I am a “B” class person because I don’t dress in designer clothes, play sports, am a cheerleader, etc. I am old enough to know and to have seen what happens in life to people who treat others based on such things.

    And I have come to know and respect and regard as good friends many people in Second Life whom I have never met in real life or seen a photo of. I was even fortunate enough after knowing a few for over a year to finally meet them in real life – having only known them through their avatar image never made a difference to our real life meeting.

    In a way, I am starting to realize that this in itself is somewhat of a fascinating topic. And it would make a great study on human interactions and behavior. Too bad I changed from psychology to engineering. 🙂 Thanks again for responding!

  3. Hi Pam,
    I wrote a post last night in SpaceClaiming, asking to our members to express their opinion on this topic. We’d like to know what they think.

    Here’s the link to the post: http://tinyurl.com/5w3bay
    I’d love to see you back in our community, joining the conversation. Thank you.


  4. Thanks Veronica for inviting me back and for bringing the topic out for discussion. I am very interested in hearing others views on this so am joining to watch the conversation and hopefully participate in some great CAD-related discussions.

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