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Opinion | Imagery addiction

By the time the glitch in the Facebook ecosystem was fixed, the internet had revealed a global addiction to pictorial expression

Is human communication going back to the age of hieroglyphs? The outrage online on Wednesday over an image-loading crash suffered by Facebook and its other apps, WhatsApp and Instagram, would suggest so. Text messages had no problem being exchanged. Neither did those reductionist little emojis. WhatsApp was first littered with a hollow-eyed emoji modelled on Edvard Munch’s Scream, and then by teary laughter after Facebook took to Twitter, of all things, to issue an apology. Image files simply refused to load.

By the time the glitch was fixed, the internet had revealed a global addiction to pictorial expression. Few seemed able to get by without the aid of some imagery in one form or another. Does this reflect a regression to olden days? Or the need for a global digita franca? Human language evolved from the grunts and groans of survival, the kind that accompany joint action taken against predators or in favour of the species’ perpetuation. Drawings came next. Today, the stuff of pharaonic glory has more or less taken over our handsets. Scream in emojic horror, if you must, but don’t forget to squeeze out those watery guffaws.

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