Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Thousand Words Isn't Enough: a Reflection on Images

Well, this isn't the blog I promised next, but it's something I've been thinking about and felt like I needed to write down.  Recently, I was watching a pretty in depth "behind the scenes" feature on a movie I loved, and it yielded a lot of insight about the nature of the creative process and the execution of a creative vision.  By that, I mean the manner in which a lot of little details coalesce to contribute to the aesthetic, tone, and themes of a film and serve to advance the narrative.  It was fascinating, and was the kind of thing I hadn't thought so much about in while (probably since my humanities classes at Berkeley).

Anyway, my thinking eventually segued into considering the ways we craft the images of ourselves that we present  to others.  I'm not really referring to physical appearance in this case (though sometimes that can be part of it), but the representations of ourselves that we present to the rest of the world.  In addition to impressions in person, opportunities abound these days to shape digital versions of ourselves through social media and other outlets: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., ad nauseam.  With my recent introduction into the world of smartphones, I have greater access to these than ever before, as well as an Instagram account to add to my personal  list (don't expect much yet: I'm still learning how to use it).  Branding is an increasingly prevalent concept to individuals, no longer just a corporate buzzword.  In the noisy online landscape, often a snippet seems to be all we get to create an impression.  Sum yourself up in 140 characters.  We become preoccupied with fitting ourselves into neat packages and classifying them.


Different people take different approaches to navigating this landscape, and the observer is left to draw his or her own conclusions from the information available.  To some, less is more.  Others take more of an "open book" approach, perhaps in hopes of presenting the observer with enough data to ensure them a well-rounded view into the various facets of their lives.  One way I've noticed people trying to gain and provide understanding about themselves lately is the taking and sharing of personality tests, often based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  There plenty of places to take a comprehensive test online for free, and a lot of fun twists on interpreting the 16 types have cropped up (my favorites so far are Buzzfeed's Animal Personality Type and Geek in Heels' Star Wars MBTI chart).  I've taken various versions of the test and seem to come out about equally INTP and INFJ.

I'm somewhere over in this corner of the chart.  Hopefully not Palpatine.

The heart of this practice seems to be driven by the human need to learn about ourselves and be understood for who we really are, or at least, who we view ourselves to be.  Many of us crave connection.  Interestingly and understandably, the majority of the people sharing their personality results appear to be those classified as introverts.  Maybe we feel the desire to explain ourselves better than we're often able to in groups.

The point of this post is a reminder that all of these representations are merely like coarsely pixelated images of ourselves: the general idea is presented, but not the core of what makes an image unique.  Its real beauty and value lies in its details, its intricacies.  All we can do is try to display a faithful representation and hope the people who matter to us care enough to dig deeper-- to start filling in the blanks and painting in the details for themselves, and hoping they find something beautiful and real.

No comments :

Post a Comment