One of my favorite things about work in my company's dependence on instant messenger. IM isn't always the best communication method - you rarely have the recipient's full attention, there's no paper trail, and my sarcasm doesn't always come across correctly. Despite it's flaws, IM provides a unique create outlet - the avatar. For those of you unfamiliar, it's the display image that shows up next to your name (and your IMs) to your contacts. I know avatar technically has some other meaning, and that what we're really talking about here is called a display image, but I call my display image an avatar. This is 50% my blog, so that's what it's called.
So back to the beauty of the avatar. You can select whatever image you'd like. In a company like ours where you rarely (if ever) see your coworkers, the avatar serves as your head shot to the digital world. Speaking of which, the selection of a picture of yourself as an avatar is not good. If I wanted to see what you looked like, I'd just google you. The avatar is a creative outlet. Some members of the avatar hall of fame include:
Chairman Mao Playing Ping Pong
Pig in Slop
The Chief from "Where in the World is Carmen Santiego"
The State Fair Handshake (Man and Woman walking with hands in each other's back pockets)
As you can tell, avatars don't have be be relevant or timely or anything. I did a little avatar consulting for my work friends in the past. I would ask a series of questions (example: What is the heaviest thing that you can lift above your head") and would then provide a handful of images to select from (example: Bell Biv Devoe Album Cover). Similar to blogging, I was not able to monetize my avatar consulting business, but feel as though I contributed to the greater good. There are now more cartoon characters and pop culture icons and fewer yellow smiley faces on my buddy list than there were when I started. My work here is done.