It always feels a little narcissistic, putting together an “About Me” page. A whole page just about yourself? What do you put in for interest’s sake, and what do you leave out so as not to make it too long? What can you put in safely, and what would get you possibly into identity-theft trouble?
As a webmaster and designer since 2003, I’ve been doing “About Me” pages for my various websites for a number of years, but I’m certainly not the absolute authority on them. I have, however, had a lot of experience with writing, and that has stood me in good stead when creating personal descriptive pages. The following tips are all bits of advice that have helped me over the years.
A Few Do’s
Do include some basics.
Your Internet nickname (possibly first name), your age, gender (if you wish), and the country, state or province you live in is always appropriate for an About Me page. Including your career field and a few hobbies is also interesting for users, since it gives them a small window into what kind of person you are. And a random, small list of a few things you like will further illuminate your personality without being too in-your-face personal.
Do format it beautifully.
Whether you’ve got a long About Me page like I have (heck, mine’s almost an autobiography, LOL) or a short one, format it and section it off with headings, subheadings, and otherwise styled text. Nothing is more overwhelming than seeing a wall of same-styled text running down your screen. Break your content into paragraphs by subject (career, likes/dislikes, web design experience, etc.), or break it down by the time in your life that it happened (middle school, high school, college/first working years, etc.).
Do choose your images carefully.
If you’re going to include images (more about that later), choose them carefully. Select colorful, sharp photos or images that directly supplement the text of your page, so that the images contrast well and provide visual interest for your readers. And don’t let the images overwhelm the text–the About Me page is all about the written content, unless you’ve done a complete pictorial About Me page (which is entirely possible!).
A Couple of Don’t’s
Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss/religious leader/parents to see.
Since the Internet is open to anybody, it can feel as though you’re free to air all kinds of dirty laundry to whomever may come by. But a few grounding guidelines can save you from unintended disasters. For instance, if you’re going to reference any family members, friends, or co-workers in your About Me page, best to keep their names out of it; if you’re going to talk about any personal hobbies that might raise a few eyebrows at your job, worship center, or home, you might think about making a password-protected page for that, or just not writing about it at all unless your site is directly associated with it.
Don’t post absolutely everything about your identity.
For instance, never post your last name on an unprotected webpage, and it may be safer even not to use your real first name. Posting your exact location (city, street name, etc.) is also a safety no-no, due to Internet creeps. Lastly, posting your birth date (full date, I mean) is downright dangerous, sadly enough–keep that off your personal page. And I don’t think I need to say much about bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, phone numbers, etc.
Don’t post a picture of yourself that’s too detailed.
As I was talking about images earlier, I mentioned that you should choose images carefully. Not only should they look great alongside your text, but they shouldn’t be complete facial portraits. Perhaps an artsy-style Photoshop avatar of your picture, or even a cartoon version of your face, but for safety reasons, leave the real profile picture to Facebook. I hate that we have to be this careful, but enough crimes have happened to prove that one cannot be too cautious when posting things about oneself on the Internet.
When you’re writing an About Me page, you need to consider the type of site you’re writing the page for.
Is This Site for Business/Work?
Doing a business- or work-related site means that your About Me page’s tone should be professional, cool, and collected, and your grammar, sentence structure, and spelling is exemplary. This is the place to state your career skills, job aspirations, and personal vision for yourself. This is not the place to describe any fetishes, quirks, or personal problems unless they directly relate to your work and/or career.
Is This Site for Community/Social Organizations?
A community-oriented or more social-oriented About Me page warrants a little more familiar tone than the all-business About Me page. Your tone can be more conversational and friendly. This is the place to show why you love this particular community or social group, why you’re a part of it, and what parts of your life mesh with it. This is not the place to brag about how much you do for the group, how much you hate certain people in the group, etc.
Is This Site for Personal/Leisure Use?
More personal and leisure-time sites allow you to be the most familiar in tone on your About Me page, since you’re likely letting them into your life with each page of content on the site. This is the place to tell a little more about your personality, your everyday life, and your life passions. This is not the place to list tons of accomplishments, awards, or other shameless plugs–it comes off as bragging.
Working with Content
Keep in mind that your readers are not necessarily your most trusted confidants or therapists. While you may feel comfortable, especially in a blog setting like mine, getting a large load of emotional baggage off your chest, try to keep your About Me page as positive in tone as possible.
If physical pain or a specific medical condition is part of your life (the way it is in my life), for instance, you may just want to write something like “I deal with [name of illness here], and I talk about it on this site because it has affected my life.” Writing about it in this non-confrontational way allows the user to know some of your struggles without feeling as though they’re walking away carrying the burden of your life with them.
Emotional and spiritual battles fall under the same heading. Whatever you’re carrying in your life, you can write a bit about it, but don’t get too deeply into it in your About Me page–let it be known, but maintain a more positive stance.
And of course, if you’re writing for a business site or a social organization site, you might want to keep out any personal struggles altogether unless your business or organization deals directly with the kinds of problems you’re facing. For instance, the leader of a local cancer organization could write about being a cancer survivor on that social organization’s page, but he or she might want to leave that off their LinkedIn profile.
Tailor Your Page to Your Particular Site’s Purpose
Each of my About Me pages on the Internet is slightly different, based on what the site is about and who I’m trying to reach.
On my novel blog, my About Me is a little blurb with my name, age, state of residence, and how long I’ve been writing the novel, plus a link to my domain. On this blog, my About Me page references all the things I do in my everyday life and how it feeds into my blog articles; it also links users to my much more in-depth About Me page on my domain, which is wayyyy detailed about me without giving too much about my identity away.
When you create a site, remember that the people who find your site are typically just interested in that subject matter, and as such, they want to hear why you’re qualified to write about it. Keeping your About Me page steered towards that topic while still making it about you is a tightrope walk, but it can be done.
Let Creativity Reign
If you have a more media-driven idea for your About Me page (like I suggested before, a page full of meaningful images, a poem that you feel describes you completely, or even a video or music clip that you love and has personal meaning for you), try it out! Even if it doesn’t end up working for you, at least you gave it a shot. A memorable About Me page is much better than one that plays it very safe. Just make sure that your target audience will not be offended and will be able to access your content.
Don’t Limit These Ideas to Self-Created Pages
Wherever you go on the Internet, you can keep these ideas to reference for all your social media pages. Profiles on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Last.fm, and tons of other sites can all be sculpted using these same tips. It’s not about lying to your visitors, but making sure that your profiles are honest without being too gritty.
In a way, when you write an About Me page, you’re performing a delicate dance for your visitors. The most attractive dance is one in which just enough but not too much is revealed, because it leaves viewers wanting to know more. Likewise, when you write about yourself, you want the visitors to know a little about you, but not so much that they never come back after one visit, because they feel they “got the whole picture” already. Walk that tightrope!