Words still have a meaning in an age of pictures and video calls Image Credit: Raphael Schaller

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. And with the flood of pictures that are circulating on social media – and finding their way onto those smart phones that never leave our hands – imagine how many hundreds of thousands of words we have at our fingertips!

But, are all of them really necessary?

Sure, especially now that we cannot meet freely or frequently, we can keep our children “informed” of what we are doing in the childhood home they still have some nostalgia for, or we can catalogue our little adventure in the “outdoors” where they once so happily played with their young friends.

Our children can also invite us into their new lives, wherever they are, with a few shots of their workplace, their home and their activities and this two-way exchange is always welcome and always run through over and over sentimentally.

Eminently forgettable incidents

In addition, we can bring joy to each other in the larger family circle when we share pictures of children and grandchildren growing up; we can also reminisce without words when we discover a 40-year-old photograph of college mates in the corner of our cupboard and we click it and share it with those college mates.

But do we really need to record the colours in our plate at each meal, the spread on our dining table (or someone else’s table) at each get-together, the many mundane and eminently forgettable incidents in our daily life – and then “post” them here, there and everywhere, convinced that other people are interested in our doings and our comings and goings? Do we imagine that by recording them and sharing them, these everyday activities suddenly become milestones to be mulled over, replayed and rehashed?

I doubt whether we have given adequate thought to the fact that we could be wasting a great deal of our time and other people’s time with all those unnecessary pictures that really say nothing at all. Not only do we spend time clicking and sending them – but, I am sure, the recipients spend their precious moments glancing through the pictures, realize there is nothing worth looking at, and then do their share of ticks and clicks to delete them all!

And those are only the personal photographs we take and share.

What about those other downloaded and forwarded pictures of complete strangers, those pithy sayings accompanying “feel-good” pictures, the inspiring ones, the critical ones, the ones that raise a laugh… Why do we in our infinite wisdom believe that what we find cute or funny or interesting should interest everyone we are in contact with?

Unintentionally offensive

Sometimes, we could be unintentionally offensive: When we so blithely click “forward”, are we ready for an angry response from someone down the line?

Of course, it has been Coronavirus-this and Covid-that almost endlessly for two years, and we have grown accustomed to pointing fingers at everyone who breaks the “rules” of physical distancing when we have done the same ourselves in many unwitnessed instances or even on social occasions that we are absolutely convinced we are justified in attending – while others are not!

Perhaps we forget that the ubiquitous smart phone we cannot move a step without is first of all, a phone. Especially in these days of fairly affordable connectivity, we can instead have a wonderful conversation with someone who is physically distant, whether by circumstance or geography or choice.

What’s more, in most cases, we can enjoy a video chat: something that belonged in the realm of science fiction some decades ago!

For us, a generation that first knew only rare “trunk” calls, and found “subscriber trunk dialling” a marvel of quick connections, this is a level that translates into the magical!

So, why spoil it all – and clog up cyber space – with unnecessary transmissions?

— Cheryl Rao is a writer based in India