In a time when virtual life has taken over real life, young Facebook users spend thousands on profile pictures

Frequent status updates on Facebook are no longer enough. Now, young Facebook freaks change their profile pictures often to stay connected. Upload a new display picture (DP) on Facebook and no matter how it is, it attracts loads of ‘likes’ and comments from your friends. It can be called self-obsession or simply an urge to be popular, but looking hot and happening on Facebook has become a big deal.

Nikita, a design student, changes her profile picture on Facebook every two days. “It helps me be on the news feed all the time,” she says. “Changing the DP often makes sure that your friends are in the loop and even long gone friends make it a point to comment on a newly uploaded picture.” Almost every collegian swears that an attractive DP on FB can give a virtual celebrity feel. “Whenever you change the display picture, the activity gets listed on the top of notifications in your friend’s profile,” says Shwetha, a stylist. “And people are very much particular about the way they look in the picture.”

Look and feel

But, however stunning the profile picture may be, is it worth spending thousands on it? Professional groups of second-line fashion photographers based in Mumbai have been shooting Facebook profiles for young people of late. “We started receiving orders from ordinary guys and girls and not models and they wanted to be shot professionally,” says Sikanadar Heyat Khan from Photowalas, an online forum of fashion photographers. “Facebook portfolios are a significant part of our assignments now.” He also says that youngsters shooting Facebook profiles are particular about make-up, hair-styling, costumes, props and the location. “People demand that they should look like models or actors and they don’t mind spending 10 or 20 thousand upon it,” says Gaurav, a second-line photographer. “At the same time, many also don’t want the shot to look artificial and they want the feel to be casual and natural.”

Fiancés on Facebook

“These days, people also search for brides and grooms on FB rather than on matrimonial sites,” says Naina, a Delhi-based entrepreneur. “Even if the engagement is done traditionally, the fiancés get in touch, chat and get to know about each other on Facebook.” Some also say that the importance of a decent profile picture has gone up as many also search for jobs on Facebook. “The site has become a common platform for everything, so much so that even bosses and subordinates become friends on FB,” says Naina.

If youth in the big metros are going out of the way for their display pictures, small-town collegians have opted for a cheaper method. Sundar, an event photographer based in Madurai, has been doing a lot of touch-up and ‘clone-up’ work on Photoshop recently. “College-going youngsters often get their photos clicked and want them cloned on to pictures of actors,” says Sundar. “The background colours, costumes and stills remain the same, while only the face of the actor is replaced with that of these boys and girls.” He says that these pictures later go on to the Facebook page. “Often youngsters shooting for Facebook also want pimples and marks erased and complexion lightened and brightened,” says Sundar. “Even if the shoot costs only a few hundreds, we also charge extra for the effects we add on Photoshop.” He says that a good-looking portfolio of 10 to 15 pictures may cost around Rs.700 to Rs.1000.

Security issues

The rather more conservative youth in small towns have also started to upload photos. Arasi, a native of Paramakudi studying at a college in Chennai, remembers how nervous she was initially to open an account on FB. “But now, all my friends have a DP and I too have one,” she says. For security reasons, some continue to be apprehensive of uploading profile pictures. “Many girls shoot abstract pictures of their face to avoid cyber risks,” says Guru of Jeyam Studios at Mahalipatti Road in Madurai. “These kids always stress upon secrecy and many get their FB pictures shot without the knowledge of parents.”

Whether in small towns or the metros, attractive display pictures have become a must-have for networking youngsters.

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012