So yesterday at the social media summit, @tsand Ustreamed concurrently, and provided a running commentary to our conversation on his very own backchannel. I watched, but didn’t have the audio up. Today while I was working, I listened to the commentary and nearly fell off my chair several times. @tsand is a born character and, in what must have been a slow period, started replicating people’s twitter avatars. He’s a great mimic, and it was comical.
Then he got to me. That was hysterical.
He mimicked my avatar several times, actually, but then decided to recreate the glasses too, since that’s all you see. Here’s the segment where he got inspired; it starts around 01:04:00.
Whoa! Holy uproar, Batman! Some people loved it, but some people couldn’t even find me online… because they were looking for the wrong avatar. Interesting, huh?
When my community started to twitter, we used just about every kind of avatar out there. Some were cartoons; others were words or symbols, and some were pictures, but of other things–pets, trees, flowers, kids, whatever. I know that for me, I first used an image of my dog Gracie, simply because I was a little gunshy about putting my digital identity out there for the world to view. Some people are still like that. And that’s okay.
The first time there was a ground swell around the identity of our community was when we started creating Twitter avatars for last year’s Learning Design Summer Camp. While they weren’t photos, they were eerily similar likenesses, and it was really cool to look at your twitterstream and see a whole group of faces that you knew.
Now, over the last year, I’ve seen a large majority of my twitterstream convert to a series of self images for their avatars. It might be a close up, head shot, formal shot, candid shot, distance shot, action shot, or even a back shot. I find it interesting that we are getting more comfortable with the idea of putting our own face to our digital identity, and I think that’s important. Faces denote trust. Humanity. Connection. I mean, even the act of facial recognition is distinctly human; we do it with ease, while software has to work at it. A lot. A recent article asking How Important Are Avatars? points out that seeing faces really affects us:
A sense of presence in an important principle of human behavior: The mere presence of others dramatically changes our behavior.
And you know, we look for that connection. We rely on that recognition. And when we don’t make the expected connection, we are stymied.
The funniest thing here, in my mind, is that even *I* am surprised every time one of my tweets goes out, because where I expect to see my face, I see @tsand instead, and it’s a really jarring experience. It’s like he’s saying the things I think I should be saying. And every time I go to reply to him, I wind up trying to reply to me.
It seems I’ve grown accustomed to my face.
Update: We couldn’t even last 24 hours with the @tsand2go avatar. Both @tsand and I kept thinking they were all his tweets, not mine. A fun-but-weirdly-out-of-body experiment that somehow had me channeling Shatner at the end. Go figure.