By now we’ve all seen the mug shot of Jeremy Meeks. He’s handsome, in a bad-boy way. His ice-blue eyes stare out at us from the photo, cold…or is it passion we see? Something dangerous lurks behind those eyes. And women everywhere shared this photo when they came across it on a Facebook page. They melted. They swooned. There was surprise and astonishment at his good looks. But read further and you see someone whose life has been troubled, to say the least. Gang affiliation. Robbery. Possibly murder or manslaughter. Why would we even give any thought to this man except for that one photo?
The viralness of this photo is a sign of something within our society that I call the surface dependency. We see something, we respond to it. But rarely do we look beyond the obvious to find out what’s inside or under an image. We rely on what we see, not what we learn from going further. There’s little push at any level to go beyond the initial seeing. Why spoil something that looks so…perfect?
This is why infographics are so popular. Why photo sharing social media sites are more popular than sites that are more text based. Why even Twitter gave in and added photo capabilities to their 140 character posts. I see more photos on Twitter now than ever before. And on Facebook nothing stops people faster than a photo link. Instagram is very popular because it allows you to share photos. Pintrest is all photos, with links to more info possible if you want it. Most people just use it for the photos. Heck, I have friends who use Pintrest to tell photo stories. Photo memes – those pictures with a few words across the top or bottom – are shared over and over again. Short videos get our attention, especially if they have no audio – or perhaps just some music.
We see something, we react to its immediacy. We smile. We share. Or we gasp and share. But we rarely go beyond the initial image to find out more. Why would we? The photo is enough, we think. And really, do we want to know more? If we knew who Jeremy Meeks really was when we saw that photo of him would we have given it a second thought?
It the surface dependency in all of us. Seeing it seems to mean understanding all there is to understand. We’ve lost the need to look further, to dig at something until we get to its core. And this is part and parcel of why our American society is viewed as shallow by many in the world at large. Looks are everything. As far as we are concerned, nothing lies beyond what something looks like. Its why beauty queens, celebrities and internet sensations like Jeremy Meeks get lots of attention and why things like climate change get less and less. Why people who love themselves the way they are get shamed because they dare to be less than what our shallow sight tells us is right.
Surface dependency is a problem. If we can’t dive into something and find its core, we are allowing society to be pulled along without much thought on our part as to where it’s going. If we dig a little we might just find out a few things and stop something that in the long run is going to be bad for all concerned. Dig a little before we share something on social media, and maybe, just maybe, we would not share it as is, but give a little warning about what someone is seeing. Or we might not share it at all. Knowing more about something may not be easy, but it can make someone a little better when they are asked to decide on something.
The next photo you see on your social media of choice – look beyond the photo. Look beyond the infographic or the meme. Get more information. Be more than the photo.