Thursday, March 29, 2012

Is a picture still worth a thousand words?

What I’m going to write about in today’s blog will come as no surprise to any of you. No great insight or revelations. And I’m sure most of you will agree with the overall concept.

Today, we no longer live in a word-based society. We have transformed into an image-based society over the last few decades, and this has enormous implications for all of us. The world we live in today focuses on the headlines, the sound bite, and, at best, perhaps a paragraph. You remember the old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words?, Perhaps today a picture is worth 10,000, 20,000 or 100,000 words. This new reality that we all must deal with is, in part, due to a rapid development in technology that has led to an explosion of Internet usage, which is primarily an image-based medium.

Images projected on video screens can be found in every aspect of life. The end result is we now have much shorter attention spans thanks to the expansion to an image-based society. We cannot concentrate on any one thing for any length of time. Today’s news and sports channels are crowded with multiple layers of information. Why? Because that’s what’s required to keep our attention.

I have witnessed this firsthand. Working with high school and college age students for the past 25 years, I have seen a significant decrease in the ability to focus and pay attention. I can’t count the times I have talked to students while at the same time they were playing around with their mobile media devices. It’s as if an entire generation has been infected with some sort of virus.

Another casualty and perhaps the greatest tragedy is that reading is rapidly declining. Newspapers are practically dead thanks to the Internet. The National Endowment for the Arts reports that young people between the ages of 15 to 24 read only 7 minutes a day. Seventy percent of 13 year olds do not read daily. Their conclusion is the obvious that young people are reading less.

Focusing on images or pictures and reading a headline or two means you will only skim the surface of any issue or current affairs. We live in an increasingly complex society. Without reading and thinking, we will not be able to have the perspective, insight or knowledge to make informed decisions.

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