How Evil Can You Be About Somebody’s Total Lie Of A Profile Photo?

Plus, how to not be creepy on Twitter. Welcome to FWD: Halp! a weekly advice column about using technology like a person.

Original Ryan Gosling Photo: Steve Granitz/Getty Steve Granitz / Getty Images

I recently saw a profile photo of someone I know and in it she looked like a movie star. So I Googled her because I thought, “I don’t remember what she looked like when I met her years ago, but it definitely wasn’t Christina Hendricks.” Let’s say that her avatar could not be used to help you find her in a crowd in real life. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being Ned Stark and 10 being Cersei Lannister, how evil is it that I sent both pictures to someone I work with for entertainment reasons?

Ugh, I really need to start watching Game of Thrones so I understand the villain references that all the kids are making these days. I’m going to think about this on a Harry Potter to Voldemort scale, if that’s okay with you. So I’m going to say that it sounds like we’re working with a Malfoy-ish level of evil. I’ll let you decide which one.

We all know that using modern versions of the Glamour Shot – the over-processed Photo Booth pictures, the phone-in-mirror pictures, the sepia Instagram shots of you in your Ray-Bans – as one’s predominant profile picture can be comical. That doesn’t seem to stop all that many of us from doing it! We all want to look our best, regardless of whether or not you, Letter Writer, think that particular shot captures how we look most days. And as far as misleading one’s audience goes, LinkedIn seems like the place least likely to offend. (“Oh, that’s what your hair REALLY looks like? Suddenly you DON’T seem so qualified for this mid-level marketing position, buster!”) It’s acceptable to notice this kind of discrepancy. It’s less acceptable to send a side-by-side around the web. You just lost 14 Internet Karma points. You have two lost Tumblr followers and an endless series of vowels in Words With Friends headed your way.

All that to say: at the end of your email, you asked me if I’d like to see the pictures. And I said yes. :(

How much am I allowed to retweet/reply to people who don’t follow me before it seems creepy? Because when someone does that to me, I’m like, “thanks!” And then when they do it more than everyone else combined, I’m like, “I’m really not that interesting. Stop stalking me and find someone more worthy.” I like to think I’m keeping it just under the line with most people I’m a fan of, but how do I know FOR SURE?

I did not realize this was a thing people worry about! This is a weird world, isn’t it? “There is a person who frequently does things with varying combinations of 140 characters that I appreciate. How often shall I display this appreciation to him/her?” Sometimes I think we should all go outside. Let’s go swimming!

You should treat people on Twitter (as everywhere else) with respect, and it sounds like you’re probably doing that. My instinct is telling me that anyone who even considers whether or not his/her online interactions with a stranger are coming off as “creepy” is probably not all that creepy. (One exception: people who start their online dating messages with “Not to sound creepy, but…”, who are, statistically-speaking, 400% more likely to end up collecting pickled body parts in jars.)

Never worry about the frequency with which you retweet someone – retweeting is a compliment, and anyone who is “creeped out” by seeing his or her precious words spread around the Internet needs to reevaluate his/her presence on Twitter. I wouldn’t worry too much about the quantity of @-replies, either. This is more a quality than a quantity concern, I think. Are you harassing or insulting this person? No? Then tweet on, ye merry gentlemen and women!* (*sung off-tempo to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen*)

At what point am I allowed to follow up with a colleague/work connection that I definitely need to hear back from but of whom I am also a bit frightened? And if/when I do the following up, how do I do it?

Being scared to talk to people but knowing that ultimately I HAVE to talk to them is the story of my life. Let’s take a moment to mourn the fact that nobody’s yet bothered to develop mind-grams, which are my idea for a way to subtly insert yourself into the mind of someone who is supposed to get in touch with you. It could be like this Guess Who-type panel of faces you keep on your desk. You press the face of the person you’re waiting to hear from, and that person gets a psychic reminder to contact you! Look, I don’t know how to make it work. I’m just the brains of this operation.

IN THE MEANTIME: the length of time you need to wait is directly proportional to the urgency of your request, and only you can know that. As a general suggestion, I’d suggest waiting as long as you possibly can and then adding one day to that. In other words, give your colleague the benefit of the doubt and don’t follow-up until you really need to. Then escalate along the lines of communication: Send a follow-up email, and when you send it you can add “urgent” to the subject line, if needed, and have it be legitimate. Then, greet your colleague in person and say something like, “I just wanted to follow up – have you had a chance to do/read/call [this thing/person] yet? Please let me know as soon as possible, because [reason for urgency]. Thanks again!” If s/he’s being a total d-bag about this, and you’re following up to like three other previous follow-ups, you can leave out the “thanks.” That’ll show ‘em.

FWD: Halp! is a weekly advice column on how to behave like a person when using technology. Would you like said advice? Email your questions to Katie.

Katie Heaney is a writer and volunteer text message analyst living in Minneapolis. She thinks you should have good manners, even on the internet.

Bird Image: Shutterstock.com/kenjito

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