Reading Eye Contact Quells Online Hostility, it occurred to me that the icon people select to represent themselves here could have an effect. While we can't have true eye contact without real time video, even pictures which simulate it probably elicit more empathy.

Mean comments arise from a lack of eye contact more than from anonymity

Even if the subjects were both unrecognizable (with only their eyes on screen) and anonymous, they rarely made threats if they maintained eye contact.

... seeing a partner's eyes “helps you understand the other person's feelings, the signals that the person is trying to send you,” which fosters empathy and communication.

Compare the emotional impact of these possible icon images. When you look back and forth, don't you feel more comfort looking left?

Even people who prefer anonymity can use icons which have some form of eye contact, as Grinnincat and Steph S do. I suspect that an impression of ubiquitous eye contact in a social network creates a more empathic-feeling impression on a subconscious level.

Non eye contact probably has a similar emotional effect to an avoidant glance or even shielding the eyes.

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Yes, like Melinda said there are some strange people out there and we should stay away from them if possible.

Thanks Chris G for telling your story - we can be more vigilant here.

It's a shame that one crazy-acting person could turn you and your friend away from an entire social network "for a while". In the real world we avoid a neighborhood where a crazy person wanders the street, for physical safety. But here in virtual world can't we safely ignore one crazy?

Especially if he's been banned.

I've always appreciated the importance of maintaining an emotionally safe social space at A/N.

For a while I thought I might run into him at an atheist meeting and his avatar was a symbol so I didn't know what he looked like - not that an avatar with a human face necessarily would have been his. I had just moved when that happened so I must have felt particularly vulnerable at the time. I don't know how I would react now. The guy was unpredictably bat shit crazy so I'd probably react the same way. 

On eye contact, I heard that when talking to a large group it's best to look at people in the audience long enough to determine their eye color. Because my hearing is bad I have to look at the mouth of the person speaking especially if its noisy. Otherwise I maintain eye contact.

Your icon picture is so dark, I can barely make out that it's a cat. The impression to me was of being hidden, secret, dark. A levels adjustment would be nice.

Another photo hint.  Have someone take a high resolution picture of you from at least seven feet away, then crop it for you icon. Scientists just learned that there's a subtle warping in photos taken inside of personal space which makes you look less attractive, less competent and less trustworthy.

Previous studies have examined how our social judgments of pictures of people are influenced by factors such as whether the person is smiling or frowning, but until now one factor has never been investigated: the distance between the photographer and the subject. According to a new study by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), this turns out to make a difference -- close-up photo subjects, the study found, are judged to look less trustworthy, less competent, and less attractive.

"It turns out that faces photographed quite close-up are geometrically warped, compared to photos taken at a larger distance," explains Bryan. ...a warping effect that is so subtle that nobody in our study actually noticed it.

That subtle distance warping, however, had a big effect: close-up photos made people look less trustworthy, according to study participants. The close-up photo subjects were also judged to look less attractive and competent.

"This was a surprising, and surprisingly reliable, effect,...

Ready for Your Close-Up? Distance at Which Facial Photos Are Taken ...

They could have just asked a professional photographer to find this out. The reality is it has to do with the focal length of the lens. I think digital phones and cheap digital cameras have too short a focal length (20-40mm?) for good portraits thus the suggestion in the terrible article above.

The Best Portrait Lens

The best portrait lens is designed for the photographer who's passionate about people.

Alliteration aside, you're reading this page if you own a digital SLR camera and want to find a good lens to use for portrait work.

The lenses that I list below are especially suited for capturing the human form, and will help you capture faces so that they look three-dimensional and natural.

Let's begin by talking about some of the general features that make the lenses on this page best suited for portraits.

In order to take appealing portraits, you want a lens that's going to represent the human face as it actually appears to the naked eye.

  • Wide angle lenses (10-18mm) make subjects look like they're in a fishbowl: the nose is overly large, and the ears appear tiny
  • Telephoto lenses (200mm +) compress space, and while this is not as unappealing as the wide-angle effect it can "flatten" a face so that it's not as three-dimensional

Since lenses at the extremes aren't optimal for portrait work, the best portrait lens is going to fall somewhere in the middle.

A good portrait lens focal range is anywhere between 50 to 100mm.

Since a digital SLR sensor is smaller than standard 35mm film, it "crops" every image you take. This is also called a focal length multiplier or crop factor: a 50mm lens will capture images on your digital SLR more like a 75mm lens on a film SLR.

Since the most common focal length multiplier for digital SLR cameras is 1.5x, you must apply this to find the "adjusted" portrait focal range for a digital SLR.

The answer?

The best portrait lens for a digital SLR should have a focal range between 33 and 66mm (50 and 100 divided by 1.5).

Another aspect of appealing portraits is that the subject's face is clearly in focus, but the background is not.

Creating a blurry background focuses the attention of the viewer where you want it - on the face.

One way to blur backgrounds is to use a lens with a wide maximum aperture. Lenses with wide max apertures create shallow depth of field, which turns that distracting background into a soft out-of-focus canvas.

This makes a wide maximum aperture the second requirement of a good portrait lens.

This shows portraits with different focal length lenses.




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