Sunday, June 18, 2023

Columbia’s New Reality Show?


Which one of these contestants will be the Next Town Center Board Member?

The post from Columbia Town Center Community Association is serious. My question is not. Something about the photo put me in mind of a promotional advert for a television reality show. 

On the surface, they’re all about Rouse’s vision for the New American City, but once we get them behind closed doors…

You get the picture. 

I’m going out on a limb here (not really) and assuming this is not a photo of people who live in Town Center. It’s a stock photo. There are plenty of reasons to choose to pick out a stock photo and you can learn about that by pursuing a basic Google search. Basically, you can pay to use stock photos from a large and varied collection, invest in custom photography, or use something you already have on file. 

Why use a photo at all? Is it necessary for communicating the message? Technically, no. But a photograph catches the eye. It makes you look. Social media sites like Facebook are predominantly photo-driven these days. So many users include photos to get more eyes on what they post. 

Before I go any further: I completely support seriving on a Village Board. (I’ve done it myself.) I support Town Center’s reaching out to the community on social media to recruit additional board members. I’m not criticizing or ridiculing them. 


It’s just the photo. It makes me giggle. If any Village Board in Columbia looks like this I will eat my hat. On the other hand, would I want to have been the person in charge of picking an appropriate photo? No, no, no. Not me.

What is this photo saying?

  • We hope this photo will get you to read our text.
  • This is what our Board looks like. Join us!
  • This is what we wish our Board looked like. Join us!
  • We are cool and hip. You can be, too.
Am I overthinking this? Of course I am. Is this an issue that you should get terribly worked up about? Not really.

I just find it fascinating how the use of a stock photo can tip a perfectly normal message into something that feels less credible or even silly. Why is that? It’s as though something in our brains is activated in an itchy sort of way that tells us that something is off. And that feeling then colors how we feel about the content. Even more complicated: not every consumer of social media will have the same response. There’s no one size fits all.

Sheesh. I am glad this is not my job.

Just for fun, do a Google search for stock photos that make no sense. 

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