One thing that I originally liked about the internet back when we had painfully slow dial-up connections was a resurgence of the written word. When blogs first appeared, I was struck by how articulate people turned out to be. I know that is the opposite of the received wisdom. Perhaps my expectations had been too low. Still, especially when blogs focused on people’s first hand experiences, I was happy to see the wide variety of interesting voices.
Then the internet got faster, which was mostly good. However, faster meant more pictures. Pictures used to take up valuable bandwidth and the were used judiciously and sparingly. It was an odd, temporary, reversal in a society which had moved away from words and towards images due to television. Once our bandwidth increased, pictures on the internet, were used with a profligacy in news sources that hadn’t previously existed. In the newspaper, few articles had photos. On the internet, it seems that every article comes with an image, usually a stock image.
One of the reasons I don’t care to use too many images on my blog is because images can have a subconscious effect. I noticed a few years ago that the website Alternet would use the same dimly lit photo of a woman’s torso with black under wear and high heels to accompany a wide variety of articles about sex. I felt at the time that the repeated use of the image subconsciously created an association between certain clothing and sex. Since often the images chosen are based on pre-existing assumptions and stereotypes, this sort of use reinforces cultural norms. Personally, I felt that I wanted to make more conscious decisions about my own use of images.
I still find myself highly critical and skeptical of the use of images. I saw a really weird one today. At the other end of the political spectrum, on the Breitbart website, there was an article with the headline, “Study: Global Warming Will Kill Your Sex Life.” It was about a study that “examined how birth rates change over time in the US, depending on the weather.” Weird study, weird article, weird click-bait headline. But the really weird thing is the photo. What kind of photo would you put to illustrate that strange article? How about a stock photo from Getty Images of about a dozen young children in Niger?
I mean, I’m not sure I even have anything to say about that. It’s just so weird. I don’t even think I can trace the train of thought that led to that choice. Did they purchase the right to use it from Getty Images for something else and now didn’t know what to do?
Addendum: I originally found the picture by looking at the page source which says “niger” in the image tag. To be specific, Getty Images says that they are Nigerian refugees in Niger. I just thought I’d add that in case you were thinking, “That fabric looks Nigerian. Fojap! Don’t you know the difference between Nigeria and Niger!”