Avatar, Schmavatar!

Good heavens, I’ve just learned that the people at WordPress expect us all to choose avatars, or else they’re going to start putting a big fat question mark next to our names every time we leave a comment. I don’t know about you, but of the many things I am not, a question mark is at the top of my list. I feel I’m more of an exclamation mark, actually, or a lovely curvy comma. But I can’t digress into a discussion of which piece of punctuation best suits me, I’ve got bigger problems.

At first, I thought an avatar was a musical instrument played by an ex-Beatle, but I did some looking last night and learned that they actually were Hindi god-representatives (and yes, I am aware that’s probably terribly, embarrassingly inaccurate, but I’m going with it, not having time to do better — I’ve got to make myself an avatar after all.)

The avatar recently morphed into an internet term for a picture that’s going to go up along with every little comment you leave anywhere in the ether world. It was bad enough having to choose a name, but I have no idea how I’m going to choose a picture that acts like a kind of name.

Last night, I spent three hours — hours I should have been spending doing the work of justice for my job, in which the People of the Great State of California pay me to handle legal appeals — three hours, trying to find a picture that sums me up.

And I failed. How hard can it be? Well, it turns out it’s really, really hard if you, like me, have minimal computer skills, very little graphic sense, and a dislike for color pictures of lilies. That was my idea, a simple one really — I’d find a nice drawing of a lily to be my avatar. Trouble is, all the lilies out there that you can get for free are florid, sentimental, icky lilies, and that’s not me. And even if they were, they have to be the right size, or capable of being cropped to the right size. The closest I came was a very nice black and white botanical drawing of a lily of the valley from some university biology department in Florida, but when I tried to use it, it came out looking like a scary spidery creature. Not the sort of public persona I’d like to project.

And that’s the trouble — you don’t want to have to pick just one image to represent you. Some days, an elegant botanical drawing might be fine. Other days, you might want to go with something a little wilder.

I haven’t resolved this problem. Perhaps it will take several glasses of wine to restore my perspective. It’s not like I’m naming a child, after all. Not exactly. (I’m thinking, to tell you the truth, it’s a lot harder. You don’t have to find a picture to represent your child. And you can choose a name plenty of other people have chosen. In fact, I found it very simple to give my three children the names of English kings. You can’t go wrong there, since they’re common enough names, will never embarrass them, and when they ask you why you chose them you can say, oh, we just figured if it was good enough for a king, it’d be fine for you.)

It’ll have to be a work in progress, this whole avatar business. For now, I’ve gone with a bowl of cherries, which life really isn’t, at least not all the time.


29 thoughts on “Avatar, Schmavatar!

  1. Bloglily,

    When I realized that it was a put-one-up-or-else situation, I had to act immediately…no question marks for me!

    My Photoshop skills are questionable, at best, but if you want help and can email me a photo of a lily that you’d like to use, I’d be happy to donate a little time to the cause and see if I can come up with something you’d like. Let me know!

    🙂 Genie
    The Inadvertent Gardener

  2. I guess WordPress has to “keep up with the Jone’s” of the techno geekdom in order to remain a viable commodity. However, that being said, I must say a bowl of cherries might be just the avitar for a blog whose tag line is “it must give pleasure”.

    PS where does one go to submit their avitar.

    PPS on the more erotic blogs they should be asked to submit an avitart.

  3. I hate it when we are supposed to embrace terrifying technology. It was hard enough posting a photo, now I am instantly to upgrade to what looks like a highly complicated microscopic version? Never mind finding something that represents me!!! Oh and dear Bloglily, you reassure me. I thought an avatar was an ancient kind of sword and didn’t know who to confess this to…

  4. Or Lily Barth, with a bottle of opium in my hand, but very well dressed! (That’s a fabulous idea, Ms. LitKit.) Yes, it was the microscopic thing that bummed me out. 100 pixels by 100 pixels (or maybe 80 by 80, who knows?) Litlove, you can confess anything. I know about you & Bataelle now and nothing will surprise me.
    Sue, I didn’t want that Princess thing to get out of hand. Still…. a nice glittery crown, some shoes. Hmm.

  5. I spent a good hour or so fretting over mine. Or at least having a cup of tea and supervising my husband while he fretted over it;)

  6. I wouldn’t want to pick an avatar either — I’d go through the same unhappy deliberations you have, I’m afraid. Although — I do think I might like the question mark. That kind of suits me.

  7. Eoin, May I say that yours is the ultra-avatar, the very nicest one I’ve seen. There’s something about its clarity and charm that really got me, and in fact, might have been the reason I spent so much time trying to find one that even remotely accomplished those things.

    Ms. Make Tea — I’m glad you were having a cup of tea and supervising! I’m not sure why that didn’t occur to me.

    I really like it that you’re a question mark Dorothy — that makes sense, because you have an inquiring mind, like Mr. Nobody knows who, like you, is a fine teacher. 

  8. You’re right, that did the trick. Until I looked at your wonderful blog and saw that you’ve just recently STOPPED POSTING! At least I’ve got some back issues to read….

  9. Yess! Singing Librarian, that’s absolutely one of my favorite strategies for dealing with new things that scare me, I pretend like they don’t exist. In fact, until it was recently brought to my attention, I was under the impression that Bill Clinton was still our president.

    Eoin, wow, how lucky is that to have someone figure it out for you. (Upthread, Genie, of the beautiful tomatoes has made such an offer and I am going to take her up on it pronto.)

    Welcome Matt — That’s good — Better to smile than cry, is our motto around here. In a moment, I’m going to go & see what avatar you’ve chosen.  (I’m back from that.  Ahhhh– I see it’s actually okay just to post one’s picture.  Now why didn’t I think of that??  When I was in college, you were supposed to send in a picture for the freshman book, and if you didn’t, they put in a picture of John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever, which was an inspired choice.  Still, one’s own face — and I’m assuming that’s yours — is a perfectly good, simple, straightforward icon.)

  10. BL,
    Yes I was fortunate. The person in question knows me very well and has a way with these things! I did the uploading though which I managed tolerably well!

    I am finding the avatar business quite the buzz. I hve added at least one site to my blogroll purely on the basis of the avatar. I mean the blogger is called Fencer and the avatar is a fencer! Slick! I was sold straight away!


  11. Eoin, Fencer’s was the very first blog I came across in my search for sites I’d like to emulate. He’s such a fine writer and nice guy. And now, I have to go look at HIS avatar. You’re right, it’s really fun to check out peoples’ choices and see how they create a visual identity to go with their textual one.

  12. I spent way too long deciding on an avatar. The question mark appealed until I realised that nearly everyone else would be represented by one. I wanted to be different. I thought about a simple photo of myself and finally decided that what would best represent me, and my blog, was what I have uploaded — me, gazing at my shoes. The uploading was a breeze. Deciding how I wanted to be represented, not so much.

  13. It strikes me that a lily seems highly appropriate. While not a big avatar guru, I chose one because WordPress seemed to be beckoning me to, maybe I am too easily influenced by headless weirdos in cyberspace though.

  14. Great conversation here. I’ve actually had conversations with people, asking them “If you were going to be a punctuation mark, what would you be?” And my answer has always been the question mark. I’ve been using a tiny picture of a quick self-portrait I painted as an avatar on other sites, so I suppose I could use it on WordPress too, but I’m getting tired of it. I think it’s time to make a new one with my new square green glasses. If you’d like a hand drawn one from a photo of you, I’d be happy to give it a try, though no guarantees it would actually look like you!

  15. PS – I would not claim to be either a writer or a reader, but I am most definitely a drinker of tea. My camelia of choice at the moment is a mixture of Chai and Roibosh, which is manages to be both mild and strong. 🙂

  16. You just gave me an idea: why not have closeups of our eyes as avatars so that we can ‘actually see into the eyes of the people to whom [we] are speaking’ — sort of. Or maybe just one eye (these avatar things are so small).

  17. Hi. my first post was erased because i did not enter the entire email address. I thought i wrote a clever one too! Anyway, I love your blog and plan to come back! Others love it too, it seems. I am a speech pathologist, hence i was looking for clipart for communication devices. Nice to “meet” you.

  18. Hello Maureen — I’m sorry about the erasure of your post! I hate it when that happens and I’m impressed that you perservered to leave another. Anyway, I’m also glad to hear that you’ll be back — I’d love to hear more of what you have to say. As for clipart — I hope you found what you’re looking for. And nice to meet you too. Don’t be a stranger. All the best, Lily

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