Where we’re going, we don’t need words: Social apps are killing text

where were going we dont need words social apps are killing text emoji

This is a random sampling of my recent digital conversations.

texting examplesIt’s awfully meta that I’m taking screenshots and inserting images of these, no?

Apparently I’m not the only one who’s replacing words with screenshots and Imgur-made memes. The surplus of photo-favoring apps that have conquered the social space within the last few years are example enough: We’ve all witness the Pinterestification of the Web, the Tumblr takeover of traditional blogging, and we all now know the pure power of Instagram is not to be underestimated.

But this trend in particular simply has its roots in “traditional” visual apps like the aforementioned. Those apps were minimalistic in their nature; they focused on images and photos instead of a text element. Now we’re seeing images, in a variety of forms, replacing text altogether.

Speed is another important factor. I can tell you where I am with a photo faster than I can write it out.

The app of the moment that can very much be tied to the popularity of visual digital communication is, of course, Snapchat. While Snapchat was originally pitched as a tool for “secret” photo-sharing, those days are long over. Now it’s morphed into a messaging app with personality, where users trade inside jokes and personal moments… that come with finger-drawn, crayon-like borders and accessories.

WhatsApp and WeChat have also played a hand in the death of actually “text” messaging. The popular chatting apps let you send photos and emojis and drawings.

instagram emoticonsMainstream apps are catching on as well – and if they’re not, we’re forcing them to. Facebook recently updated the emojis and stickers available via its mobile and Web apps (“People love using stickers as a fun and easy way to express themselves and we keep adding more sticker packs,” a Facebook spokesman tells us), and while Instagram hasn’t added native emojis or emoticons, users have certainly figured out how to implement them. And in a strange twist – and almost reversal of the image-over-text trends – we’ve turned Instagram into a messaging platform by using screenshots to communicate beyond still photos with other users. You just know that the recent “hack” to fancy up Twitter fonts will only lead to some emoji insanity. 

This summer, Facebook introduced photo comments, and to say they’ve been well-received would be putting it lightly. These comments rise to the tops, standing out among the pack of likes and word-written approvals. Threads are given new life with images, sometimes devolving to nothing more than to a back-and-forth comprised entirely of pictures. I know I’m not alone here: Whenever I respond to a status update with a photo I received more likes than if I’d attached a link or composed by own response.

“This is a watershed time where we are moving away from photography as a way of recording and storing a past moment,” professor of photography at Harvard, Robin Kelsey, recently told the New York Times. “[We are] turning photography into a communication medium.”

Whereas we used to spend careful time taking photos, editing them, and uploading them to Facebook or Flickr, Instagram taught us all that effort was for naught and that a quick snap and a 30-second filter perusal could churn out beautiful pictures that people interacted with – rabidly. And while our Facebook or Twitter profile pictures require some level of awareness and decision-making (“what will this single photo say to the world about me?”), a just-taken selfie can be fired off via Snapchat, iMessage, Facebook Chat – wherever – to tell, nay, show your friend how you’re feeling. Or who you’re creeping on. Or what you’re doing.

Showing simply carries more weight than telling. A fast inventory of my Facebook Timeline and activity proves as much: I get more interaction from images. I interact more with my friends’ images.  

corgi parade

We know very well that we have a visceral reaction to images, but that doesn’t account entirely for our affinity for the picture message. Speed is another important factor. I can tell you where I am with a photo faster than I can write it out; you can explain how your conversation with your boyfriend went with a screenshot of the text better than if you re-composed it yourself and had to write out the “and then I said” and “then he said” over and over.

You have to imagine this will have some sort of effect on our verbal and writing skills. The adverb is already dying quickly (see what I did there?), will the adjective be next? Who needs descriptors when you can see for yourself.

I’m surrounded by these leafy, lush green tre – oh hell, just look for yourself.

That’s not to say the propensity to favor images over text is all bad. Texting in general is a reprieve to our overloaded auditory systems, and for those like myself that spend their days reading, parsing, deciphering written words (and there are still many of us), the to-the-pointness of screenshots and images is something of a relief. It’s the source of the information, no in-between routes taken, nor any reinterpretations (save for the occasional crop, filter, or drawn-on addition… and if you’re friends with particularly malevolent texters, iMessage editing). There’s also evidence that photo messages actually help people express themselves better, and feel more connected to those they are communicating with. And no one can deny the intimacy of sending reaction GIFs back and forth with your best friend all day, or selfies to your long distance significant other

This is also opening the door for new technology that interprets the text in our images. I recently stumbled across a patent that proposes the ability to interpret the emotions behind a selfie, and assigning it a specific emoticon. It’s quite Dystopian to think about using such a system to define how we’re feeling instead of doing it ourselves, in our words – although we’re already heavily relying on computers to help us convey emotion

But I digress. I’ve said – er, written – too much.

emoji messageI think you get the idea. 


Updating to Apple’s iOS 12 will make your iPhone a whole lot smarter

iOS 12, the latest version of Apple’s iOS, is officially here. We took it for a spin to check out its new noteworthy features, and if it truly changes our smartphone habits for the better.

Was your Facebook account hacked in the latest breach? Here’s how to find out

Facebook now reports that its latest data breach affected only 30 million users, down from an initial estimate of 50 million accounts. You can also find out if hackers had accessed your account by visiting a dedicated portal.
Social Media

Instagram is testing a new way for you to look through your feed

Instagram is constantly tweaking its app to help give its users the best experience possible, so how do you like the sound of tapping — instead of swiping — to look through your feed?

Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL: 5 features we love, 5 features we don’t

Google officially launched the highly anticipated Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. While Google's new smartphones offer plenty of things to be excited about, there are also changes we aren't fans of. We've rounded up a list of both.
Social Media

Snap a photo to follow a new friend on Instagram with its Nametags tool

Skip the typing and search bar -- Instagram now allows you to add friends using the in-app camera. Nametags are scannable graphics that will lead straight to your Instagram profile.

Facebook’s latest data breach could earn Europeans thousands in compensation

Facebook users in Europe distressed about Facebook's revelation that its latest breach left as many as 50 million users exposed could get some compensation. Facebook also faces a class-action suit and a broader GDPR investigation.

Voice commands could be coming to Facebook Messenger

Thanks to digital assistants, voice controls are becoming commonplace. One day, we may even be using them in Facebook Messenger. The company has confirmed that it is currently conducting internal tests for Messenger voice commands.

Find love with the best LGBT dating apps for iOS and Android

If you're looking to meet someone new, look no further than your phone. Whether it's just a date, or you're looking for something a little more serious, here are the best LGBT dating apps available for Android and iOS.
Smart Home

Creepy or convenient? Facebook’s new Portal smart display follows you around the room

Facebook's Portal devices are video smart speakers with Amazon Alexa voice assistants built in that allow you to make calls between FB friends. The 15-inch Portal+ model features a pivoting camera that follows you around the room as you…

2018's 10 best dating apps to help you find the perfect companion

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.

Google to shut down Google+ after exposure of 500,000 users’ data

After Facebook revealed that 50 million users may have been exposed as a result of a security vulnerability, Google announced it discovered a bug that left 500,000 Google+ users exposed. It will also shut down Google+.
Social Media

Sick of Facebook privacy scandals? Here's how to protect your personal data

With a number of security scandals in 2018, it has us questioning if we should get rid of Facebook. Here's how to protect your personal data without deleting your account, as well as how to just nuke the thing altogether.
Social Media

These are the best ways to make an animated GIF

Love sharing GIFs with your friends and peers, but wish you could make your own? Here's how to do so in Photoshop, or using a few other methods that don't require you to shell out a premium fee with each calendar year.
Social Media

Instagram says its A.I. can track down bullying in photos

Instagram is turning to artificial intelligence to help it root out bullying on its platform. Following similar efforts to target bullying in comments, the company now has systems capable of detecting bullying in photos, too.