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Posted: August 03, 2017

Myself or Someone Like Me: The Avatar

By Allen Tibbetts

When you’re 14, you’re never going to be old. Until one day you are. 

When you get older, the best you can hope for is to be cool - the cool mom or dad, the cool aunt or uncle - and hope the young'uns around you see Rico Suave instead of Ricky Ricardo (who would have turned 100 this year).  

That’s not the way it works, of course, but it’s really all most of us have to hang a hat on. That and our increasingly shiny heads.  

Part of the perception of cool in this digital world is the ability to keep up with the latest ‘thing.’ Or at least to be perceived as trying to keep up.  

So, when my teenage companions suggested I needed to be on Snapchat, I surrendered my phone.  

“Set it up.”  

If you’re not familiar with Snapchat, my best and shortest description would be that it’s texting with pictures.

There’s so much more to it, but that’s the basic function.  

Further, unless you make a special effort to save a Snapchat, it disappears for good, typically after 10 seconds. There is a lot to like about that, especially if you are fond of sharing pictures of you doing stupid or illegal things (I’m guessing).  

I suppose it’s because your chats disappear the Snapchat logo is a ghost.

The ghost is actually a blank canvas. You can insert a photo of you or anything else in that space. I had chosen to do nothing, and it was not sitting well with the 16-year old beside me.  

She suggested I needed an avatar. In digital-speak, an avatar is a digital representative of you.  

Think of it as a personal emoji.  

For example, take your basic smiley face emoji 😊. Now, give Smiley Face some of your features, like the same color hair, that same skin tone, your dimples, glasses, if you wear them, etc.  

You’re basically creating a cartoon character in your likeness.  

You bet there’s an app for that. Several, probably.  

Let the games begin.  

She would look at me, then look at her options for designing me. “You need a longer face,” she commented as she picked a template to make that happen.  

“His nose isn’t long enough,” her brother offered, thus involving himself in the process.  

It started getting personal. Really personal.  

My wrinkles were discussed. Scars and moles were talked about. And I guess I had bloodshot eyes that day because the question, ‘can you make the whites of his eyes red?’ was asked.  

Assigning my avatar white hair was a no-brainer, but they argued over which available option looked most like a guy going bald.  

Ultimately, my avatar was finished. It's not easy seeing yourself through the eyes of a teenager, but I wasn’t too disappointed. Given that they were only creating my face, I avoided some other pitfalls common to men of a certain age:  

-pot belly 

-corroded toenails 

-ear hair 

-nose hair 

-turkey neck 

-baggy pants (‘cuz you got no butt)  

I thought I got off pretty easy. The 14-year old thought his sister could have done a better job around my eyes.  

“He’s got some pretty gnarly eyebrows.”  

I do. And he will too one day. As we’re all fond of saying: There’s only one option to getting older, and you ain’t gonna like it much.  

But I’m good with where I am in life. And I'm keeping busy by working on my own app, inspired by Snapchat. Since it will only work on teenagers, its working name is Teenzap.  

Here's how it will work: use the app to take a photo of any teenager, and in 10 seconds, they will disappear.  

Not the photo. In fact, you may want to keep the photo. It will be all that remains of that precious pimply face.  

I'll keep you posted.


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