Obsessing over the train wreck that is Donald Trump’s twitter account (check it out at twitter.com/realDonaldTrump), I found myself staring at his profile photo.

In it he scowls at the camera, frowning, his eyes locked in a forced squint – forced squints are easy to recognise since I modelled for 20 years and used my fair share of them in that time – his face that famous orange colour, and thought to myself: Even in the photo he uses to represent himself, he doesn’t look like a nice guy. He looks, in fact, like someone who would ban large swathes of a religious group from entering his country.

Then I realised, Trump mustn’t think he looks unlikeable in that photo, and I looked at it again. The hard squint, a la Clint Eastwood, the lack of a smile … maybe he thinks the photo exudes power, maybe he thinks in it he looks like how he wants to be thought of, as a strong world leader.

That’s what all of us do with our profile photos on social media – try to look good. Because, really, our profile shots are our digital handshake with the world, they’re our first impression with everybody, a still image of who we want to be and how we want to be represented – they’re us in literally and figuratively the best light.

That got me going back to my own Twitter profile shot (at twitter.com/bigsmilenoteeth). It’s a black and white shot from a magazine cover where I’m shirtless and decked out in a fake moustache, while I raise an eyebrow at the camera in supposed irony.

Why did I choose this photo? Because I thought it was funny.

But looking at it from an outsider’s point of view, it’s highly probable that I look unlikeable too. I mean, sure, I’ve got a fake moustache on and that’s funny but I’m also shirtless and on the cover of a magazine. Basically, the photo is saying, “Look at me, I have muscles and appear on magazine covers, I’m awesome”. Definitely not my thought process when choosing the photo but that could be an extrapolation people make.

Maybe my shirtless, fake-mustache photo shouldn’t be my digital handshake with the world. Because just what does it say about me? Thankfully, researchers are studying everything and have an answer to that.

The University of Pennsylvania looked at 60,000 Twitter accounts and had around 400 people fill out personality questionnaires in a bid to find out exactly what profile photos say about us. Their conclusion: We typically fall into five personality types based on our profile photos:

The extrovert. Their profile shots are usually colourful and have other people in it; extroverts like to appear youthful or be with youthful people, which is a way of appearing youthful by association. My profile photo and Trump’s do not fall into this category.

Openness. People who rated highly for openness took the best quality photos with the most colour, and didn’t necessarily show their faces, but when they did it was about making a statement rather than showing themselves off. That doesn’t sound like either me or Donald.

The agreeable. These people had colourful, happy photos, usually of people having a good time together. But because these social photos tended to be candid and cluttered, often they weren’t the prettiest photos to look at – but what did it matter, they were fun! Donald isn’t having fun in his photo – or maybe he is, in a scowling, autocrat sort of way – but unfortunately neither am I. Neither of us are agreeable according to our Twitter profile photos.

The conscientious. This type is marked by having a profile photo of one good face. Usually it’s a smiling face because for the conscientious type, smiling is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing in your profile photo so they smile. One good face? This could be Donald but probably not me.

The neurotic. Great. Since I didn’t fit into any other category, I guess this is me. The neurotic typically has less colourful photos, sometimes black and white, that display a different emotion other than simply being happy. The neurotic will also hide behind something, like glasses, or use an inanimate object as their profile photo and may also include animals.

Well, my shot doesn’t include animals, but maybe the moustache, the magazine cover, are there to mask me. And what with black and white displaying a negative emotion – in my case frowning slightly with a raised eyebrow – apparently I’m neurotic! No wonder my girlfriend is frustrated.

And that would make good old President Donald conscientious because in his judgement that miserable look is probably his good face. Well, say what I want about Donald Trump, his Twitter profile pic doesn’t make him a neurotic.

Now that this article is finished, I’ll look for a cheap psychiatrist to work out the neurotic issues I never knew I had.


Catch Jason Godfrey on Inspiring Homes on Life Inspired (Astro CH 728).