Look at the Pretty Pictures!


This post will not be filled with pictures, pretty, cute, or otherwise. Instead, I will be throwing words at your eyes.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a growing trend that pictures are the way to go when you want to share just about anything online. From weekend party updates to jokes to that inspirational quote by the Dali Lama in a picture next to a picture of the Dali Lama (did that quote really become more powerful because it’s in JPEG format?), it’s quickly becoming the de facto method of information sharing on social networks. However, the trend cannot be overlooked by the fact that entire social networks like Instagram and Pinterest have been built around photo sharing. Sites and mobile applications are putting increasing focus and efforts into viewing beautiful photos. Everything we do must be photographed and shared with all the world. Right?

Words are a distant second place to our eyes and minds. But why?

Perhaps it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Yet for every image we share, I highly doubt it’s replacing 1000 words we would’ve written out instead. So why the enhanced focus on photo sharing in culture? Are words losing their power? Do photos better convey our message?  I’ve wondered if we’ve become too “busy” to mentally process sentences and ideas. A better way to say it is we’re becoming lazy. I fear we’re becoming dumber combined with laziness when it comes to how we process information. Are we unwilling to put in the time to understand the written word, especially when it’s longer than a few paragraphs? Will we (continue to) lose our ability to think critically if all we ever present ourselves with are images and short phrases overlayed on said images? Not all ideas can be expressed in short sentences and photos.

I will confess part of my questioning and challenge of the Pretty Picture/Shiny Things Syndrome comes out of a time when the Internet was about sharing information in a textual format and when bandwidth was scarce and something to be used cautiously lest you sit and wait minutes or hours for your content to download (and you liked it!) I was raised to take in information in word format. Pictures and graphs were exciting things you found in your copy of Microsoft Encarta when you wrote high school papers.

It is no secret the proliferation of higher speed Internet everywhere we go makes photo sharing more enticing that quick text status updates. It has also given us the ability to share images of whatever we’re eating whenever we want (guilty!) But do they tell a better story, particularly in the long term? Moreover, will the original message still be there years later? Maybe this is a small part of why I got back into more book reading in the past year and a half.

Admittedly, I struggled with this whole topic and whether or not there’s any reason to argue against it. My enjoyment of humorous pics will not lessen anytime soon, nor will I likely slow down my own photo sharing. Sometimes words truly can’t capture the essence of nachos all over your car at 3AM on a Saturday night. However, trying to share your opinion through some political or inspirational image with a quote on it will not be telling me much about your own thoughts unless you provide it in your own words.


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