As you get in touch with other people around the world via the Internet, it is natural to ask whether it would be better to be seeing each others faces. This apparently simple choice is not as simple as it seems. Maybe as some primitive cultures believed, a photograph will steal your soul. That probably is not true, but nevertheless once your image is on the Internet it is there for ever and possibly available to anyone.
A new concern is facial recognition technology. Apparently high-end stores are using this to identify celebrity customers. Who knows how this new technology could be used against those of us who are not celebrities.
Clearly, allowing your image to be on the Internet has some potential benefits and some rather frightening disadvantages. Let us examine these in more detail to help you decide what is the best choice for you.
Faces Are Powerful
Looking on the bright side first, we should never forget that our face is the most powerful way we can communicate with other people. An interesting collection of powerful faces can be seen in the Pinterest collection of Loretta Fudoli. Although those have been singled out for display, each of us has a face that has its own power.
It is often said that the eyes are a mirror to the the soul. People are extraordinary receptive in reading the signals that we may transmit. That could be something as subtle as the tightening of your jaw or a slight frown. Only by having visual contact can someone else be sure that they are understanding exactly what we have in mind. This is a strong argument for allowing your face to appear on the Internet, but let us not forget the potential hazards.
The Internet Is A Scary Place
Unfortunately, we are all too aware of how the Internet can be a scary place for some individuals. Cyber-bullying has been all too frequent – sometimes with dire consequences. Hopefully the actions now being taken will have a major impact on these dreadful activities. Almost anyone can be affected by similar harassment if they happen to antagonize the wrong person who may even be unknown to them.
An extreme example of this is linked to the recent announcement that Jane Austen is to be the face on the Bank of England £10 note. Caroline Criado-Perez was one of those who had pushed hard to have a woman’s face appear rather than a man’s face which had always been the rule. A man was arrested for directing Twitter murder and rape threats at her. In consequence, Twitter has taken action against such rape threats.
In Britain, hundreds of people are prosecuted every year for Facebook posts, tweets, texts and emails deemed menacing, indecent, offensive or obscene. The problem is that perpetrators of such abuse often assume they can remain anonymous. Unless in some way they show up on any police surveillance software, they may well remain undetected.
These so-called Internet trolls attempt to sow discord by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog) – either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. What is not clear is why so many young men are turning into internet trolls?
Social media are more sociable with images
It hardly goes without saying that social media will be much more sociable if participants can see each other and know who they are talking to. Perhaps the best source for sound advice is that provided by the Children’s BBC.
If you want to keep up with your face to face friends online and chat to them, make sure you all know what your online names are. Don’t add any ‘friends’ or ‘buddies’ that you don’t recognize. If you’re unsure whether you know someone, wait until you see them face to face.
Google Wants Your Image
If your wish to be sociable with your Facebook friends were not sufficient reason, then Google is putting much more pressure on getting your image. It strongly encourages you to set your Google profile photo, which then helps your friends identify you.
An even stronger argument for doing this is that it may make your own web pages more visible in Google search results. It all relates to establishing your Google Authorship Markup. In some cases it may mean that your image will appear alongside your web page entry in the Google Search Engine Report Page (SERP) for queries related to your web page content.
Google does require your involvement in this way if you are to get the best usage from the various free services they provide such as Gmail. The only proviso here is that they seem to have a somewhat cavalier attitude towards matters of privacy. Google says Gmail users shouldn’t expect privacy and even challenges your definition of the word
To put it bluntly, Google says, “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.” It’s Google’s statements found in the brief (to the United States District Court in San Jose, California) that have Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director John M. Simpson so worked up.
Deals Are Made Between People
If you are involved in e-commerce on the Internet then independent of social media or Google, you have an even stronger reason to let potential clients see your face. Customers only make deals with suppliers whom they trust. A big part of that trust is knowing exactly who they are dealing with and knowing that the person involved will do all it takes to ensure their satisfaction. An image is a rapid way of helping that trust develop. Of course a well written profile that describes you and all the activities that are important to you is valuable too. However without an image it will be that much weaker.
Let’s Face It
We can see there are a number of reasons why letting others see your face makes eminent sense.
- People will relate better to you in social media
- Your use of Google’s free software tools will be much more effective
- You may be seen in Google search results thus displaying your authority
- You are more likely to be chosen as the supplier they can trust.
The strength of these reasons means that you are best advised to be visible in a way that helps cement relationships.
The downside is that in the unlikely event that you antagonize someone ‘out there’, then with more information and your image they can more easily retaliate in a damaging way. It could be that it will be difficult to counter whatever they choose to do.
Unfortunately there are no guaranteed ways of countering such attacks. The only consolation is that if you have not done anything to trigger a troll’s attention, with luck they will be attacking someone else rather than you. The best advice is to stay vigilant and make sure that all references to you on the Internet are ones you are happy to see.