I can’t remember where I first heard about Pixabay, a free repository of downloadable, CC0 images, but what I do remember is that its utility was not immediately apparent to me. I am not a picture person: I like words, and reading, and writing, and that extends to my preferences for the presentation of information online. And so when I first heard about Pixabay, I filed it away in a compartment of my brain labelled ‘interesting, but not very useful for me’ and promptly forgot all about it. It was a change in the way Twitter displayed links (so that a preview image was embedded in the tweet) that made me realise I was going to have to get a lot more comfortable with pictures: a tweet linking a webpage with no images just looked ugly. See, for example, this old tweet of mine:
It was then that I remembered Pixabay. In January 2017, I made a conscious decision to include an image in every blog post I wrote, both on this personal blog, and also on my library’s newsfeed (if you click on individual news items, you will see the images), for which I share responsibility for creating content. Some of these images are photos taken around the library, but a large majority are the work of others, uploaded to Pixabay and free to use anywhere, without attribution.
I’m very grateful to these generous Pixabay photographers. Their work is generally of much higher quality than my own hasty attempts taken on the library iPad, and they also give me access to a much wider range of subject matter than I would be able to find in my day-to-day work in the library, where I’m not likely to encounter majestic mountains, sunset beaches, or romantic candlelit reading nooks! And now my tweets look like this:
I think we can all agree that this is a vast improvement! And using Pixabay has had other, more far-reaching effects on how I communicate and conceptualise my own online communication. Precisely because I now don’t consider blog posts or news feed items of my own to be publishable until they have an image included, I’ve started paying more attention to the visual (rather than purely verbal) aspects of online communication. I’ve started caring about what my online communication looks like as well as what it says, and come to understand that the visual components are also communicating something. This personal requirement of mine to include images has also forced me to be more creative when creating online content: what image should I be using to represent ‘synthesising and summarising’, for example? How do I visually convey that I learnt a lot at a conference? What image should I use to stand in for the concept of critical appraisal? You’ll be better judges than I as to whether the images I chose successfully represented the concepts they were supposed to convey.
For those of you who have blogs, or who contribute to newsfeeds or websites, or who use Twitter (and post a lot of links), I would strongly recommend making use of resources like Pixabay, and making your online content more image-heavy if you do not already do so. If nothing else, it makes you a bit more mindful of how you communicate, what you’re trying to communicate, and what that communication will look like across a variety of platforms. And it will add instant colour to your Twitter feed! That alone was enough to make this word-focused blogger a convert to the power of images!