An avatar is a graphic facsimile that you can use in chat rooms and other social networks.
Participating in a web-based exchange, particularly with people you have never met in real life, it can be very difficult to get a sense of each participant’s personality or to keep track of one from another. Avatars allow users to assume a visual identity, which provides a form of expression as well as an easy visual clue for other users to identify you.
The term avatar was popularized in the novel Snow Crash, written by Neal Stephenson.
Also See: Learn to Social Network
Frequently Asked Questions
Do people still use avatars?
The popularity of avatars has declined in recent years, but they are still used in some forums, including many chatrooms. With the rise of social media, many web-based discussion groups have migrated to places such as Facebook or Twitter, where most users include a personal photo as part of their profile, making the use of avatars no longer necessary. What’s more, many mobile chat clients pull contact information from your other services, including social media accounts, so your contacts’ profile pictures are brought along too. This is not to say that avatars can’t be used with these services. Your profile picture can be anything, so many users still use cartoon images or other forms of avatars.
Do you have to use avatars in chat rooms?
No. If you prefer, you can participate in most chat rooms, forums, or social networking venues without including an image with your profile. Or, if you would rather, many chat rooms now allow you to include a personal photo. It largely depends on your preference.
Why do people use avatars when they can use pictures instead?
One of the appeals of the Internet is the ability to shed your real identity and create a new, online persona. For instance, let’s say you’re the captain of your high school’s football team. That role places very specific expectations on you, and you may find you don’t feel comfortable expressing some interests or feelings publicly. Like the fact that you actually prefer playing Dungeon and Dragons to being your school’s quarterback. Thanks to the Internet, you’re free to do both. By using an avatar online, you can protect the privacy of each part of your life.
At other times, you may not want to use a photo in order to protect your identity or for security reasons. The Web is an easy place to hide, and you can never be certain who you’re really chatting with online. This can be particularly important when children are online. Insisting that they use an avatar instead of their picture can help keep online predators from recognizing them.
Or, you may just want to use an avatar because it’s fun.