All over the web people use icons to define themselves on forums. Most places, that’s the only way others know us. I begin to think of regulars on certain forums as looking exactly like their icons and it’s a shock when they’ll mention something that makes them different from the persona they’ve put forward.
On some of my forums, I use the same icon I use here; on others, I use this one:
On my business cards, I used to use this image:
We try to pick aspects of ourselves for our icons that tell others about us in a form of visual shorthand. This makes sense online, but it’s hardly new. Christianity has long used icons to depict its saints and holy ones, and iconography (especially in the Orthodox church) has its own complex visual language, with each sign and color having its own symbolic meaning.
Back in college, when I lived in a house with eight other students, we got a ton of junk mail. A friend opened one and a prayer card fell out. I said, “Oh, Saint Anthony.” He said, “How’d you know that?” I flipped it over and showed him what it said. He replied, “No, no, no — you didn’t turn it over first. You just knew.”
I said, “I don’t know — he’s wearing the brown robe, holding the child Jesus… Tonsure. It’s just him!”
After a while, you just know. You learn the iconographic language. One or two clues tell you who it is: one item for each hand, max. The clothes. What the person is doing.
Now for the question: you accidentally step into a time machine and find yourself two hundred years in the future. After the initial shock, you google yourself to see how the rest of your life went, and as it turns out, you lived a life of heroic virtue! You’ve been named a saint, and you have your own prayer card! Naturally you have to go look it up, and once you see it, you find the image on the prayer card, while only a drawing, and only lifting a couple of aspects of your life, perfectly represents you!
Mine would have me with a baby in a sling on my hip, my computer bag slung over my shoulder, a funky cap on my head, and I’d be wearing boots because there’s snow on the ground. I’d have an angel in the background and a book in my free hand.
Tell me about your image. What’s in your hands? What are you doing? Where are you? And what are you the patron of?