August 04, 2007

Bad News for Crabs!

Horrors. Crabby has just discovered she is less credible that a creepy-looking talking ketchup bottle!

At least according to this recent study of how much people trust various computer avatars. (And they have a picture of the yucky condiment, so you may just want to take a quick peek).

And those of you who think you don't know what an avatar is? Yes, you do. It's just a fancy name for those little pictures or cartoons or, in some cases, sophisticated 3-D animations, that people use to represent themselves on the web.

Like, for example, Crabby McSlacker. The grouchy little Crab who brings you all the Weirdness that is Cranky Fitness.

The study was really more focused on androgyny. Researchers randomly assigned avatars and had volunteers pair up and chat online for 20 minutes. Then people rated their partners on how credible and how androgynous they seemed. And guess what? Avatars like a Cute Blond with pigtails were more trusted than androgynous avatars, like the freaky-looking Ketchup Bottle.

But the least trusted avatar, the one that came in dead last--was a lizard!

So sure, Crabby is not a reptile, but she is a cold-blooded crustacean. And the lizard was called "intimidating," whereas Crabby is perhaps more accurately described as "crotchety."

But Crabby can't escape the sad conclusion that she is way more like an Intimidating Lizard than a Bottle of Ketchup. And she is even less like the Perky Pigtail Girl!


However, she is quite happy being a Crab. It suits her. So she is not going to transform herself into a Perky Pigtail Girl no matter how much you beg her.

Anyway, this study brings up some interesting questions. Others of you must choose how to identify yourself here and other places. We have Bunnies and Chickens and Royalty; we have Goats and Bananas and Cats with or without headphones. We also have brave folks who use regular names! But even doing that, there are decisions. Use your own, first and last? Or something else? And are you always the same person wherever you visit?

So Crabby is quite curious to see what you all think of avatars and how you decide how to represent yourselves on the internet. Does your chosen identity reflect something important about you? Do you give a crap what other people think about it? Ever tempted to "go wild" with something new?


  1. That perky girl was disturbing. The ketchup bottle was right out of a horror movie. With The Crab we know what we're getting.

    I use the Takin in my avatar at AW because I love the expression on its face. I post under a pseudonymn for fun, but my full right name is on my profile page. I use the Takin on my blog because it's got its face in a pail and I don't have a proper goat pic yet. Someday. I also have an adequate pic of myself and I use my proper, full name.
    It's important to me to stand behind what I say.
    It's nice to be appreciated and respected, but what others think of my chosen avatar ultimately doesn't matter. If you live your life for what others think, then you'll never really live your life.

  2. I used to use pseudonyms and such, but I realized one day that if someone REALLY wanted to find out who I was, they could. So I just stick to my real name (though it is my new-and-improved married name:).

    (You can also figure out what city I currently reside in and my husband's name, but not my exact address, telephone number, or pretty much anything else of that sort.)

    You made me think of online games, actually. I always play male characters (you just get less crap from other male characters/players). I read somewhere that something like 60% of female characters are played by men and 20% of male characters are played by women. I suppose it depends on the exact game though.

  3. My avatar is a picture of me. I can't seem to get the google thing to work here so I do the anonymous thing and ID with a signature unless I forget :-) To see the real me,not that you would want to, look at Dr.J on Diet -Blog.

  4. My Chicken Girl nickname originated in high school and it's my most common nom de net, although I have a couple of others that I use, mostly when some copy-catting miscreant has stolen Chicken Girl from me. :p

    I stay strictly mum about my last name and address (my domain name is registered under a privacy service, so you can't trace me that way either, nyah nyah) because I don't wanna get stalked! :(

    My avatar (my face on top of a three-legged chicken) comes from an image that somebody on a forum photoshopped as a joke. I wonder if the fact that my face is on it makes up for my face being on a mutant poultry.

    Dr. J -- You can use "Other" instead of Anonymous and fill in a name (and URL if you have one) and you won't have to be an anonymous coward anymore. :p

  5. I changed my avatar last spring, I think it was. Haven't regretted it.

    And the crab fits ya, Cranky. Don't change it because of some study in which none of US were consulted (the nerve).

  6. Crabby,

    I am so boring. This is my real name and this is my real picture.

    Sometimes I leave out my middle/maiden name because the whole thing is just too long.

    Of course, I was baptized Teresa but everyone calls me Terrie. So there you have it. I have a couple of other middle names but then my name would be really, really long.

    Of course, I write mysteries, and people ask all the time: Did that really happen? Did you know the killer personally, etc. I keep explaining that I make it all up. It's just one big lie after the other.

    So I can't be bothered making up stuff about myself. It would seem like work.

    BTW, Crabby, thanks for explaining where I saw the diet soda thing the first time. I knew it was here somewhere!

  7. THANKS! That was a great link; I'll have to go spread it around. It's true I always think of certain people being like their avatar. It's really weird. Also I get really cranky myself when people change theirs all the time because I start to feel like I know someone and then bang my friend vanishes and someone new is in their place. Very interesting read. I'm gonna link, link, link. Have a nice weekend!

    Oh, Crabby if you're not out and you read this there is the COOLEST blog post - I linked it at Balance; you have to see. It was such a great idea that I almost died. Sometimes other bloggers make me soooo jealous. But in a good way.

  8. P.S Now I wonder what people think of my avatar? Likely because of the baby people aren't too scared of me. Shoot :)

  9. I use my book cover image, originally simply as a marketing ploy. I've use it for long enough that it feels like my web presence now, and I might struggle with the idea of changing it if and when another book comes out.

    I use my real name but as their are six million Dawns out there it is the combined thing - name and avatar - that is supposed to get me in the door as your friend. Occasionally, I am DawnR on a site that already has a visible Dawn.

    And I'm with Susan on this one. Any study that does not consult with the regulars at Crabby's place, is not a study that I would believe.

    We know that Crabs are cute and crusty little critters and are certainly way more trust worthy than girls with pigtails!

  10. Hi Leah,
    Love your Takin. Somehow it seems to suit you, and I do actually mean that as a compliment!

    The gender switching in online games is fascinating to me. I wonder if people still trust a non-androgynous avatar more even if the person behind it is actually the opposite gender? Interesting stuff!

    Dr. J--you're not the only one who struggles with this stupid Blogger comment interface. I know several people who have given up trying to comment entirely because it will never remember them. Thanks for your patience with it and for continuing to visit anyway!

    Chicken girl! I was hoping this post would lure you out of the coop because I've always loved the whole "chicken girl" name, and was thrilled to see when the mutant chicken showed up on the MyBlogLog widget thing. Hooray for mutant poultry! (Though I never even noticed it had 3 legs!)

    There is something so classy about yours! I've seen it other places and it always stands out to me. Makes my want to go read Great Literature or listen to an opera or something.

    That's so funny that people don't understand that mystery writers make it up! And I love seeing your actual face--perhaps because you look so friendly and approachable.

    I'm sometimes tempted to crawl out of the shell and post a picture somewhere, but am still deciding on the merits of relative anonymity. Once it's gone--it's gone. At this point, I've got a last name and some initials out there, but I'm hesitant to go the full-on name and face.

    And in the meantime, I'm partial to my Crab!

    Jennifer, that was indeed a cool link! Readers, do follow Jennifer over to her blog if you want to check it out. A simple but compelling post!

    Hi Dawn!
    I've really come to enjoy seeing Saffron's face 'round the web. But I'd be quite happy to see your own instead face instead, as a visit from the "real" Dawn is always such a highlight. Many of us who visit your blog have grown quite fond of the real picture of you too.

    But then if you were a cream-filled apple donut we'd be excited to see you too!

    So as a warning to future Comment leavers... I may be wandering away for a bit (see Jennifer's link) so I may be somewhat spotty in future responses to this post but I look forward to reading any further thoughts you may have!

  11. Interesting question, Crabby.

    I love the crab avatar, and the name Crabby McSlacker is hilarious. It's a brilliant idea.

    I chose the name "soap box girl" because that's what I wanted to name my blog, but alas it was taken. The name seemed appropriate because I'm kinda preachy, though not religious (agnostic).

    I change my avatar pretty frequently. I used to have Kim Gordon's picture as my avatar because I like the way she defies traditional gender role, with her bad-ass guitar playing and what not. I also like that she's been married to the same guy for twenty-something years and values family life.

    The new avatar reminds me of the peaceful state of mind I'd like to nurture within myself. (That, and I love Indian culture!)

  12. I found all three of the avatars in the link to be disturbing. Poorly done computer animation is a nonstarter, IMO. As for what the people surveyed like or did not like, lizards and all, ignore them. Those are other people. We of the Slacker Brigade are much more thoughtful. Crabby, I like the eponymous photograph you've chosen as your avatar. It's an excellent image of an interesting sea creature, which looks alive and therefore implies a whole teeming seabottom and a littoral simply crawling with interesting possibilities.

    Pseudonyms and avatars can be fun, but the avatars I really don't understand are when Jane or John Doe chooses a celebrity face shot. What's up with that? Are you a fan, a stalker, someone without a life of your own? Perhaps a shareholder in Enrique Iglesias, Inc. or Porn Starlet Du Jour, Ltd.? It's just confusing. Terrie Farley Moran has the frankest and bravest approach: within sensible limits that safeguard your privacy to the desired extent -- this being the Internet -- be yourself. Her honest avatar automatically makes me tend to trust her. All I can say for my(avatar-free)self is, I like apples...

  13. Interesting discussion...

    On my livejournal (the cloest thing to a blog I sometimes write in) I've choosen to not really idenitify myself. My avatar is my patron saint (St. Dymphna). I guess then that people trust a blonde martyr from Ireland who was killed at the age of 14ish... ha ha. Elsehwere I have a ppicture of myself and the Bishop of my Diocese as my avatar.

    I'm consistently Meg on here but because I now am on a bit more of the trusting side, my real name is Meghan and very, very few people call me Meg... but Meg works.

    I'm contemplating starting my own blog (probably on crazy religious ramblings) and when I saw that Blogger and Google were a pair that seemed even better since I am in desperate need of a new e-mail account (so I can ditch AOL once and for all) So once I come up with a good screnname...

    I think the biggest reason I often try hard to be anonymous online is because not everyone knows I'm a lesbian and as a Catholic lesbian, people get really confused or try to argue. So I try not to identify that online so when I do trust my real life aquaintances, i can come out to them then. Much better than them finding out online.

    So that also means rainbow avatars and the like are out (I accidently made that mistake with AIM and then spoke with someone from a Christian website who went on and on about how I could change).

    I think the crab definitely works though. I mean, we don't even know your name or anything at all about you. And still we're reading your blog. So you're definitely doing something right!

  14. My screen name and avatar suited my original purpose for going online and blogging several years ago. But as I've added blogs and my interests have expanded and shifted, I sometimes wish I'd gone with something a little less cute.

    I stick with what I've got so my blog friends will know it's me. And I don't put my name out there because I want the freedom to bitch about my boss and family. Why have a blog if you have to censor yourself?

    Of course someone who was really, really motivated could figure out who I am and where I work. But I like knowing it would take some effort on their part. If they've gone to that much trouble, they're probably a stalker and I'll know to stay away. An early warning system, if you will. :-)

  15. I'm going to be totally 100% honest: THe first time I saw the "crab" I thought it was very clever-as far as names and avatars go. But I guess I had the thought, "Maybe it'll snap at my nose, or [snip snip] at me if I come leave a comment." But then I started actually seeing the crab on other people's blogs, not acting quite so crabby at all. More like a big fuzzy teddy bear in disguise. And so began my visits.

    As for me. katieo. My name + another part of my name. woo-hoo! I gave it no thought whatsoever when I typed it in. I've thought about doing an avatar but have let the idea go unless the perfect idea popped into my head.

    Aside from CF, I do find myself attracted to blogs where I can see someone, know their name, relate to them in someway.

  16. As far as avatars are concerned, I just go with my mood and with the general theme of where I'm posting. My avatar on a roleplaying game-related forum is an albino young woman, because I happen to play and albino young woman in that particular game. Same goes for the MMORPG I'm currently playing. The avatar I use as Kery on 3FC and my blog, I picked it on an avatars website because I liked the drawing style and the girl's look. Sometimes I will use an animated image with text if I find it funny, or if it reflects a lasting mood of mind (I know, I know, I've been "Fight fight FIGHT!" for months now, haha).

    On the other hand, I couldn't give a flying flip about what other people think of MY avatar. I am the one supposed to be at ease with it, so if I want a crab instead of a pigtailed blonde or whatever, I don't care about which will be more popular. What I write reflects who I am more than the images I pick (sometimes at random, sometimes not, alright). Hey, my Trillian avatar at *work* is an icon made from a Hello Cthulhu webcomics. Can I go less trustworthy than that? ;)

  17. And regarding another comment here about 60% of female chars being played by males: I can't count anymore the amount of times people assumed I was a guy, just because I actually happen to like playing female characters in MMORPGs. (Especially in Second Life, there's so much choice of female clothing in it! /vain moment) Granted, I don't think I have a girlish behaviour, so my way of writing and talking may simply not reveal my true sex, but... I don't know. It's funny. Someday, I'll just go with it and pretend I AM a male, just to see the reactions I'll get after I finally let the truth out.

  18. I use my real name on the blogosphere, but on Absolute Write I use a picture of my cats as my avatar and the name of an Isak Dinesen character as my username. But that username is linked to my real name in the Absolute Write library.

    I like your crusty crab avatar! Don't change a thing! :)

  19. I love crusty - don't even think about changing it.

    I haven't created an avatar yet (admittedly, I don't know how to do it...), but when I do I know I'm too chicken to post a picture of myself.

    I've started a blog under SMF and am still on the fence whether I will put pictures of myself on it for two reasons: I am so fat right now that I don't want anyone I know to be able to recognize me and 2. I am bipolar. I *think* I am going to blog about that sometimes too, but I'm not sure.

    The stigma of bipolar is still so strong, that I'm afraid someone I know would find out it's me.


    I don't think that so much of a stigma exists around bipolar disorder online, especially in blog world. In fact, I think it's a bit sad that you feel that way about it. I'm bipolar too and when I did have a blog I actively wrote in, it was a well known fact and no one cared.

    I tend to find that internet is a place where you can talk about that and not be judged. For the most part when I've shared about being bipolar people could relate (because it is a relatively common disorder) and were glad to know other people shared their problem.

    I'm a psychology major also, so maybe I faill to see any stigma for that reason. I definitely think the stigma that was there is being broken. So don't worry about that. And believe me, there are plenty of other disorders that you really wouldn't want people to know you had.

    Being bipolar is not something you should be ashamed of or have to hide.

    (sorry for getting preachy...)

  21. For forums that want avatars and for MSN messenger, I used a great head shot of my greyhound - he seems to be smiling. Before that, I didnt' go out of my way to have anything in particular.

  22. I hit submit too soon.
    As I was saying....
    because my blog is meant to be a bit of a marketing tool (ok, maybe more than a bit), I use my real name and my photo. Plus, I like giving people a challenge on how to say it. :-)

  23. I use my real name.

    Why not? I want the people I know to see how fabulous I truly am.

    -- P

  24. I actually play Second Life, and I play it regularly. I do not share my rl (real life) name in game at all, and my avatar looks nothing like me. I certainly don't represent myself as the blonde pig-tailed girl... my av is wild and fun with tattoos, piercings, etc.. to the point I would prefer being irl (in real life) if it were not socially deviant to do so so openly.

    From my experiences in SL I can definitely agree with the study saying people make assumptions based on avatars... there are plenty that represent themselves as "furries" (they generally look like foxes to me) and it seems to me they aren't as openly accepted as should be. I've also seen discrimination and harassment against those that don't make their avatars a size 0.

  25. Crabby, I think the crab is perfect. It is relative to the nature of your writing. If you said you had a crabby attitude and then put up a picture of an elephant, that would be silly. I think it is good that you don't use an actual picture of your self specifically because you are writing a health and fitness blog. Many people in this world (me included) can be extremely judgmental. (I hope this news doesn’t alarm you!!!) It really wouldn’t matter what your weight/level of fitness, there would be something to find fault about. This could negatively impact your credibility. As it is, no one will ever look at your avatar, and think, “Hey her right claw is looking a little flabby. I don’t think I will take fitness and health advice from her any longer!!!!”

    Whenever I create one of those cartoon avatars, I always make it look like me, though. The cool thing is a game site that I can buy clothing for my avatar with the points I earn from winning games. I love it, because the clothing always fits and my belly is never hanging out! Ha-ha!

  26. My avatar is me also. On some sites I pick a standard one, and that's according to my mood and their choices.

    I like the crab too...don't change it.

  27. On some blogs my avatar is one of my dogs. We are so much alike without putting my actual photo on the interwebs so I thought what the hell...

    I happen to take crabs VERY seriously, especially when that crab is in casserole form!

  28. Hi, Crabby! Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting! I like crabs very much, especially you, since my Mom told me that you are a nice crab who gives lots of good advice and who initiates very interesting discussions about health and fitness.

    As a pampered furry purry girlcat, I have to admit that I don't adhere to a regular exercise routine, though I do eat healthy food. I get most of my exercise when my spazzy little brother, MaoMao, chases me around the house! *giggle*

    Purrs and snuggles from Marilyn!

  29. The only thing my chosen identity says about me is that the dad of one of my good friends is a HUGE James Joyce fan and slightly gullible. (He was convinced I was actually named Nora Barnacle for a while...) The name came way before the blog and I've toyed with changing it to Funkmaster Crunchy Crunch, but I've just started reading a biography on Nora Barnacle and I kind of like her so far, so maybe I'll keep it.

    And can I just say, props to the Crab for taking a break from commenting on comments over the weekend? I hope you've had a nice one!

  30. Thank you all for such great comments! It was indeed hard to stay away, yet Chores Got Done so I suppose it was a good thing.

    I loved finding out how you all have decided to handle identities and avatars--and I was especially intrigued to see how many of you do all kinds of fancy online games and communities that are way over the Crab's head!

    Anyway, loved reading what you all had to say. Now it's off to a new post!


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