Picture tells five hundred words

By Kristen DeHaven | Multimedia Journalist

“A picture tells a thousand words” is a phrase we hear so often it’s become nature to believe. I also believed this adage for quite some time, until I finally took a step back and questioned the meaning behind the so commonly-used phrase.

I now believe that in our current world, a picture tells five-hundred words – half of the story.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe in the power of a photo. I am a Multimedia Journalist for the Lariat, meaning that over half of my job every week is going out and taking photos for the paper, online platforms and social media. I have always been passionate about the power of a photo or video, and more specifically how these visuals can be used to make a real impact in the world. But as I have grown, the popularity of social media has as well. And I have seen repeatedly, the constant misuse of these platforms and the power that they possess in our society.

The majority of social media has changed from a platform where people share their lives with others, to a competition between users. A competition with the end goal of portraying your life as the most outstanding.

These are the norms we follow: vacation pics are a must, relationship posts are crucial because they are what confirm or deny your status to your followers and in all other posts you must look your best. Going through a hard time with your family or a break-up? Maybe drop off the face of social media for a while until you can come back completely put-together, pretending the entire thing never happened.

I am not saying that making or not making any of these posts is inherently bad; I just believe it often comes from the wrong place. The current norms of social media are increasing our pride problem.

Imperfections are what make us human, yet most of us have conformed to the belief that we are not allowed to show them.

Overcoming adversity is a fantastic thing to share, yet we always seem to downplay the hard part and instead highlight the amazing things we are doing now despite the bad. It’s almost as though we must make up for our imperfections by overpowering them with the things that we perceive to be good.

When we accept this have-to-be-perfect mindset, we are hurting ourselves as well as those around us. We are placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves, leading to our own disappointment and questioning of self-worth. When we become a part of surrounding our friends with images of “perfect” lives, we are unintentionally encouraging these same self-deprecating behaviors in them.

It can feel extremely vulnerable to share a less-edited version of yourself on social media. That’s why the cycle is so hard to break. But in order to truly love ourselves and those around us, we must begin to embrace the full picture.

Let’s begin sharing more of the realities of our lives with others, so that eventually, we can get back to having pictures that represent all one-thousand words.