Waiting for a friend on a clichéd rainy Glasgow day, I received a text from the latecomer in question: “Where are you?”. I took a second to snap a picture of my surroundings, street sign visible, and sent it back as way of a response. Without the need to speak or even type a single character, I had communicated all the information I needed to; a simple image told the story. I wondered, in this socially driven world where even your thumbs are sometimes too tired to make it to the end of typing a sentence, is this increasing move to visual media eradicating language barriers and forming a universal dialogue of its own?
Photographs are fast moving away from merely being used as relics to document the past, and are representing the ‘right now’ – moments to experience as and when they happen. Immediacy is pressing, and you better be quick if you fancy your chances at keeping up.
Snapchat is, of course, a prime example – enabling users to take and send pictures and videos with only those precious seconds to relish them, before they’ll disappear forever into cyberspace limbo. Well, unless you decide to save them. This has completely reversed the traditional picture-taking psyche. Taking away the option to leisurely browse old moments and revisit albums at an unspecified future occasion has injected a whole lot of new pizazz into communication. A shorter shelf life not only encourages users to make every snap count and even mundane moments memorable, but the bite-sized versions are concise enough to keep our ever dwindling attention span for the whole ten seconds. However, always be sure to be aware of the screenshot.
Pictures paint a thousand words, or is it now actually the case of no words at all? There are no language barriers with visual correspondence, providing the potential for your message to travel to Timbuktu and back with the smallest amount of time and effort – no translators needed. Our Instagram feeds are filled with our wordy posses from France to Frankfurt, India to Iceland, with no restrictions to our enjoyment and interaction with the platform. What’s more, with 2017’s launch of Instagram Stories, the picture powerhouse has become an even bigger contender in the social arena than ever before. Instagram has smugly provided more coveted time when it comes to transmitting messages, allowing up to one whole minute of whatever drivel *ahem* I mean, gold, you wish to shovel into the eyes of your followers.
And what exactly is up with WhatsApp? This messaging platform (along with Facebook Messenger) allows mobile users to niftily fire photos and videos along with text and audio notes to your nearest and not so dearest if you choose. They processes a whopping 60 billion messages a day. That’s a lot of nattering going on – with millions of chats being carried out in complete silence.
Is this a worrying sign for things to come? Could this possibly mean that we won’t even need to resort to LOL, ROFL and WTF speak any more to make way for a lower form of communication? Although I think that we are in the clear from reverting back to Neanderthal grunting and pointing (for the mean time), and that we are in fact empowered to tell stories and communicate in whatever creative ways we so choose to, brands must be sure to take heed of the trend and keep a sharp eye on its evolution.
And surely no words at all are better than all the wrong ones? I for one am happy with visualising the moment. And the rest is silence.