Tag Archives: Social media

Power of the Photo

Photo: Robert Cooke (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo: Robert Cooke (Creative Commons Flickr)

How important is an on-line photo? That is the question. See, I’ve been thinking about the Before and After weight loss pictures that Robin Helm posted the other day. The number alone–36 pounds–is impressive. But those images, they tell a powerful story. Photos make Robin’s journey  personal.

Social media being personal–who knew? In my professional life, I avoid photos. Can you blame me? As a teacher, I never escape the Dreaded School Picture. Every year, the most attractive and energetic faculty members–even those who are young–turn out looking tired, bless them. Of course we’re tired! Who wants to immortalize that in the yearbook?

edna-ferber-quotes“Would you like an author photo on the back of the book?” my publisher once asked. My answer was an immediate No. Who cares what the writer looks like? Readers are interested in story. They can get to know me in the pages of my books.

But social media is a different breed of animal, and the experts say that the photo matters. You won’t find one on my book covers, ever (most sales are e-books anyway), but I have reluctantly put my picture on my About page here. For my Laura Hile blog, it’s in the top right corner. Because social media is personal. It’s about making connections.

Why did I choose the picture with the person in it?

Why did I choose the business with a person in the photo?

Which brings me to another reason for this post, the Firewood Guy.  Yesterday I went shopping for wood on Craigslist. I wanted free delivery, a middle-of-the-road price, and an outfit that was a genuine business. Photos helped me out! Some of the sellers were obviously offering wood that had been sitting in the backyard for years. Spiders and mice? No thanks.

Laura-Hile-smIt wasn’t until after we ordered the wood that I realized I’d chosen a business with a person in the photo.  Weird, huh? The social media thing again. We do business with humans, not just product.  The mounds of wood promoted the each business, but seeing a friendly Firewood Guy influenced me to buy from him.

I still don’t like to share photos on-line, though I enjoy seeing other people’s. Hey, no fair, you say. And you’re right. So here’s a photo of me. It was taken at Crater Lake when the lighting was j-u-s-t right.

darcy-by-any-other-name-smAlmost forgot! The Calico Critic’s e-book giveaway is still going on. Stop by before October 8, 2016, and enter to win a Kindle copy of Darcy By Any Other Name. Here’s the link. And, ha, a photo of the book cover too.

Laura Hile (1)


But I’d rather play second fiddle

Photo: Manchester City Library (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo: Manchester City Library (Creative Commons Flickr)

I like being a back-up singer, a member of the choir, hidden in plain sight. I’m an alto, not a show-stealing soprano. My job is to harmonize, and I willingly surrender the spotlight to the soloist.

Except that I’m an author–the star, the one at center stage. This means I must step out and share. It’s not that my knees are knocking. It’s more like I look at my pedestrian life and wonder whether I have anything interesting to say!

Some of my guys

Fun with students! (Photo: Joy Tovar)

Oh, there’s plenty to say in my classroom. After all, the door is closed, and it’s my kingdom. I can sling out witticisms and then adjust the tone by the responses of my students. It’s a give-and-take, and I “manage” my class conversations several responses ahead. My poor students never know quite what I’m going to say next. “Keep them guessing” is a nifty strategy when working with middle schoolers.

But interaction via social media? It’s a whole different game. I cannot fall back on my classroom snark skills. I’m hampered by not being able to gauge the audience, to see your smiles and hear your chuckles. So I’ve learned to just blurt out stuff, casting into the wide world my observations about life and work and writing.

Domino-METhis also means making shameless use of anything cute. I have no sweet toddlers underfoot, and since discovering that I am deathly allergic to bees and wasps, my once-lovely garden has languished. But I do have photos of “grandcats.”

And with a little photo magic, I can “coerce” them into promoting my books! This is Domino, the tuxedo cat. His interest in Mercy’s Embrace is sincere and profound, don’t you think?

Then again, maybe not. I’ve tried using students, and you can see how well that worked. These high schoolers are great guys, but the cat might have an edge. At least Domino isn’t holding the book upside down! 2013-students-1

Think before you post that pic.

I know famous people, and I'm one of them!

I know famous people, and I’m one of them!

“Increased frequency of sharing photographs of the self, regardless of the type of target sharing the photographs, is related to a decrease in intimacy,” says a study conducted jointly by the University of Birmingham, the University of Edinburgh, and Heriot-Watt University.

Don't mess with my baby girl. She knows Samuel L. Jackson.

Don’t mess with my baby girl. She knows
Samuel L. Jackson.

These folks could have saved themselves a bundle of money by simply asking regular Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram users what they think of a flood of “selfies.” I don’t have Instagram, but I can look a the pictures on it, so I have formed an (ahem!) opinion. Many people who constantly share pictures of themselves tend to have fewer deep friendships and more shallow relationships. They are living their lives through the social media without much personal contact with other people.

However, if you already have a relationship with the people viewing the “selfies,” you probably won’t irritate them into blocking you or “unfriending” you. Some of your friends will even like keeping up with you in that way.

I have observed that there are several types of “selfies.” Some are funny and quirky, and I like those.

Patrick Stewart and I are best buds. He's the best "Star Trek" captain, hands down.

Patrick Stewart and I are best buds. He’s the premier “Star Trek” captain, hands down.

Some are taken to prove the person met a famous person. I get it.

Just don't tell Nancy about this.

Just don’t tell Nancy about this.

If I met Colin Firth, and he agreed to a picture with me, I would jump at the chance.

Others border on the pornographic; somebody’s mom and dad need to monitor their children before a pedophile finds them.

Then, there are those shots in the bathroom mirror right after a girl gets ready for a night out. She’s looking good, and she wants everyone to know it.

Here’s a free clue: Don’t take pictures of yourself in the bathroom – ever.

My least favorites of the “selfies,” which are by far the most numerous, are the “I have my shirt off to show you my ripped abs, my ‘assets,’ or my new tattoo” varieties. Just hashtag it #yesiamnarcissistic.

Tell me that's not Bruce Willis in a Hawaiian shirt. At least he has his shirt on.

Tell me that’s not Bruce Willis in a Hawaiian shirt. At least he has his shirt on.

Another thing to think about before you post that pic – nothing ever really disappears from the internet, and it could come back to bite you. People have lost their jobs over posts. Stalking is at an all-time high, and it’s easy. Google your own name and see what comes up. Scary stuff.

And, yes, I did meet Patrick Stewart and Ronald Reagan.

More Options

02_htm476All writing advice includes tips on training the social media monster. We at JSI are firm believers in less is more.

We have finally given into the peer pressure and opened both a Jane_Started_It Twitter account and a Jane Started It Facebook page.

Both of these are synced to this blog and will update when we post here. No more having to have a blog feed if you’d rather not.

So, like us and follow us as we navigate the tricky waters of the modern world.

You might just see a spectacular belly flop or two.

Take care–Susan Kaye