If you want to harass your fellow internet denizens on Twitter, you’ll have to do it without the cover of an anonymous egg in your profile photo: The social media site says it’s doing away with its default avatar, partly because it’s become associated with online harassment and other bad behaviors.
The original idea of the egg photo was a reference to Twitter users hatching from their default profile with brand new baby Tweets, the company writes, but things have changed. One problem with the ovule is that it’s come to represent “negative behavior” for many users, and Twitter doesn’t want to let that prevent new users from expressing themselves.
“We’ve noticed patterns of behavior with accounts that are created only to harass others – often they don’t take the time to personalize their accounts,” Twitter says. “This has created an association between the default egg profile photo and negative behavior, which isn’t fair to people who are still new to Twitter and haven’t yet personalized their profile photo.”
The company also says it’s trying to update its brand and “help prompt more self-expression.” The new default photo — a faceless head on a gray background — feels more like “an empty state or placeholder,” Twitter says, “and we hope it encourages people to upload images that express yourself.”
Twitter didn’t make this decision lightly, it says, outlining in detail the process it went through to make sure that the new profile photo felt generic, universal, unbranded, and inclusive, among other things.
For example, once the company landed on a faceless head, it wanted to make sure that the figure didn’t seem gender-specific.
“We reviewed many variations of our figure, altering both the head and shoulders to feel more inclusive to all genders,” the company writes, before finally settling on the new image.
Twitter has rolled out a series of updates aimed at online safety and curbing harassment lately, including an effort to proactively identify abusive accounts and a “mute” feature it first rolled out in November and recently expanded. Whether or not giving online harassers a different photo to hide behind actually helps anything remains to be seen.