If you’re on social media, there’s a good chance that you have a DP. Here’s what this acronym means and why you might run into it on the internet.
DP means “display picture” or, less commonly, “display photo.” It’s the image representing you on a social network or any website. This acronym is widely used on Twitter, but it can also crop up anywhere on the internet or even in real-life conversations. For instance, you might say, “My DP looks so bad,” to your friend who’s standing right next to you.
You can also use “DP” as a verb about a picture you’re going to turn into your photo. For example, if you see a lovely image of your friend, you might say, “You should dp this picture of yourself on the beach!” Your DP usually shows ups next to your name in posts and comments.
People typically write this acronym in the lowercase “dp.” It’s part of a “profile,” a group of identifying inputs on a website such as your display name, location, website, bio, and sometimes a cover photo. Depending on your level of anonymity on a particular website, you can opt to have all of these or none of these be accurate information.
Where Are DPs From?
Display photos are a relatively recent invention. In the very earliest days of the internet, most chatrooms were entirely text-based and used a system known as Internet Relay Chat or IRC. However, during the early 2000s, message boards started popping up that allowed users to set an “avatar,” a common way of calling digital display photos at the time.
It wasn’t until the invention of Facebook, and later Twitter and Instagram, that adding a picture of yourself became a common practice. Nowadays, display photos are an essential component of any social networking site, messaging app, or nearly anything that requires you to make an account. They’re an invaluable way to help us visualize the people on the internet. People who don’t have a DP are often called “randoms.”
The first definition for DP on the internet slang database Urban Dictionary was created in June 2009 and reads “acronym for display picture.” The passage highlights its use in social networks and instant messaging systems, which were common at the time.
The Culture of DPs
At first glance, picking a display picture might seem straightforward. Snap a picture of yourself, upload it, and that’s the image people will know you by. However, in the last few years, a few unusual quirks have influenced the way people perceive display images.
On Twitter, it’s common to have your display image be from a “fandom” you identify with if you’re a “stan” or an intense fan. So, for example, if you’re a big fan of a particular sports team, you might have the team’s star player as your image. Fans usually do this to self-identify to other fans, giving them the ability to find other people in their community quickly.
DPs can also create assumptions. For example, Twitter is famous for having constant “discourse,” where many users have long discussions with hundreds of tweet replies. Since your DP is the only way someone can visualize who you are, it can significantly influence the conversation.
Lastly, your DP can be a topic of conversation. Facebook creates a timeline post whenever you change your profile image, so people can comment on post stories or Tweets that draw attention to their recently changed display images.
Pictures, Pictures Everywhere
If you have multiple social media accounts, you might notice that each website has a different term for its version of a display picture. However, “display picture” remains one of the most common ways to refer to a profile image — dating back to instant messaging apps from the late 2000s. That’s why so many people refer to any internet avatar or display image as their DP.
While many people refer to these images as “profile pictures” as well, this doesn’t have a shortened version on the internet. That’s why “DP” is the go-to term for websites like Twitter, which have character limits. Ironically, while you mostly see “DP” deployed on Twitter because of the culture on the website, Twitter itself calls these images “profile pictures.”
Here are a few examples of different naming conventions for a display picture on the internet:
You might also stumble into anonymous communities where adding a picture is uncommon, such as Reddit. People usually pick a random image or a non-human avatar on these websites.