Well, maybe not THIS picture … but images in general are often considered essential to a webpage or an online profileWe’ve heard this one all our lives, haven’t we? I’m afraid it’s really true. A good on-line friend recently asked for thoughts around how valuable pictures are for online networking. Here’s the LinkedIn question which started my wheels turning on this issue this chilly spring morning. The following is my refined response:
First, THE ANSWER IS “YES”
The current popularity of image-oriented sites, such as Tumblr.com and Instagram support the idea that people care about pictures, whether they be photographs or visual images. They also love to share those images, as a rudimentary review of Facebook will quickly show.
Regarding LinkedIn and other business networking sites, I know that I tend to ignore profiles without a picture. Actually, I do that on social networking sites too. My personal preference is to see a visual rendition of the person, the idea, the process, or the event.
WHY are images so popular?
I know on a personal level that I am drawn to visual images. A picture can be quite rich and the prevalence of cameras make taking pictures much easier than in the old days.
Images grab our immediate attention as words often cannot do. Think of the iconic events of our lives and I would imagine that a picture or image is how we recall those events.
Pictures engage us on a very emotional level.
SEVERAL PROBLEMS WITH ALL THIS:
Critical Thinking: People will not read a well-organized and articulate statement, but they will post and share an image which attempts to convey the gist of all those words.
This is not necessarily a good thing. Yes, it is convenient and fashionable to get our input from visuals, but we lose the details and the depth sometimes. Look at the picture above of the burning World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001.
A truly powerful image, but what facts does it convey? How does the picture contribute to our understanding of how this event came to be? What is NOT conveyed about this event through an admittedly gripping picture?
Editing: I have mixed feelings about the use of editing tools. I use PowerPoint’s editing functions to create images for posting in connection with words. I often change the picture from the original. That’s okay when I do so purely for creative reasons. The problems I see is when we change the images to support our beliefs or our positions.
Smoothing out the wrinkles in your face is a simple vanity. Deleting or adding someone to a visual record of an event is changing reality.
Filtering: This is not too different from what we do when we edit the words to emphasize some phrases and “ignore” others which do not help our particular causes:). We choose our images with care, not always to provide a complete or factual record, but to show the world what we want the world to see. What we want the world to see is what we wish were reality.
Our penchant for using images to convey meaning sometimes results in decisions being made not because of what is, but because of what we think is.
Political propagandists and celebrities have used this human tendency for a long time.
Wondering how tall that guy really is in the Heartland ….
JohnWTC photograph licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. Leaning Tower of Pisa photograph has been released into the Public Domain.