Words worth a thousand pictures

Why Fondfolio is still a text-only gift

written by fiona

Dozens of books are opened to show their words are spread across the floor, placed side by side, you are looking down on them from above.

published on September 14, 2023

The most common question I’m asked by potential customers is some version of “can people upload photos with their text?”. This is not surprising, other memory books allow you to add images, but I don’t think this feature would make Fondfolio a better gift. In fact what makes these books so meaningful is the time and effort it takes to write things that would otherwise go unsaid. And if images become a part of the message I believe these words are more likely to remain unwritten. In my replies I sum up in a few sentences why Fondfolio is words-only, but I think it’s worth diving more deeply into the why here, because I’ve given it a lot of thought.

Photos are easy to share and there are many ways to do so, including dedicated photo books. I suppose you could argue that it’s also very easy to share words — emails, texts, comments on social media, voice memos. But those day-to-day messages aren’t the kind of words I’m talking about. Meaningful words, the kind that express feelings, memories or stories the other person may never have heard from you before, are much rarer. Rarer still is an outlet that encourages and collects those kind of words from a group, transforming it into a memorable keepsake. Maybe this scarcity is because it can be hard and sometimes tedious to find these words, but it’s this challenge that can make the result so rewarding. Contrary to the saying “it’s the thought that counts” I believe that it’s the effort that means more to everyone. And everyone does feel the reward of putting real effort into finding these words — recipients and contributors alike. It’s the same mechanism by which warm feelings from compliments spoken aloud ripple out through the giver, receiver and anyone within earshot.

There is another familiar saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” conveying the idea that a single image can better communicate complexity. And while this can be true, the value of a photo isn’t always greater than words, especially given how easy it is to share images these days. On top of the ubiquity of photo sharing, the interpretation of an image isn’t always guaranteed — an individual’s memory and the passage of time can affect how someone feels about a photo. So I think the opposite of that phrase can also be true — sometimes even a sentence or two of honest, heartfelt words written only for us by someone we care about can be infinitely more impactful than any number of pictures they could have shared. Your friend might never remember about that nice thing they did for you until you remind them. And there’s less up for debate when someone is describing exactly why they think you’re great or recounting the specific details of a fond memory.

Encouraging people to recall good memories is, in some small way, an effort to counter humanity’s negativity bias. Evolution has hardwired us to more easily remember the bad, so it literally takes more effort to celebrate and savour the good. This is why things like gratitude journaling and positive self talk are popular — we have the power to change our own brains with our thoughts. Other people can also help bring awareness to those good aspects of ourselves we might otherwise have never known or valued. We are each our greatest (and meanest) critic that’s why it’s important to also know why other people like us and enjoy our company. Real humans, with true counter-points to whatever nonsense our inner gremlin is babbling. And it’s handy to have those words in a format we can easily return to when the gremlin gets stuck on repeat. There is an elegant Japanese proverb which I think perfectly encapsulates this point: “One kind word can warm three winter months”.

I think it’s a common misconception that you have to be a good writer for your words to have that kind of emotional impact. In my experience it’s more important to be yourself, be aware and be thoughtful and everyone has the capacity for this. Your words will always mean more when they sound like they actually came from you (and not Chat GPT).

Of course, Fondfolio’s focus on words might turn some potential customers away. But I hope that for every one that is put off there are ten times more that are able to see it as an opportunity for a transformational experience and the creation of a valuable keepsake. I’m encouraged that this isn’t just wishful thinking, but something customers are experiencing and I return to their words whenever my inner gremlin gets too loud.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Further word-related reading:

written by fiona

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