Wednesday, 28 March 2012


We need to move past myths about e-language that the physical constraints of the new media will inevitably diminish our appetite for sustained text and thought.

Emails, Facebook, Text messages, Twitter, YouTube, some experts argue threaten to infantilise the brain. Some also say that social media is used at the expense of all other forms.

In other words, if the words, if the electronic uprising excludes other writing completely, we probably would be left thinking in short snatches.

But that is akin to saying that if the only sport we played was football, then no one would be good at tennis.....that's a big and unlikely "if".

These arguments remind me of the moral panic that has beset every new form of communication. People claimed the printing press was the devil's tool because it could disseminate lies. The telephone was going to cause family breakdown because we would stop talking to each other in person.

Now social media will deteriorate our brains because we are going to abandon all other forms of writing!

There is no credible evidence to support this assumption. Schools still require essays. Workplaces still produce reports. Universities still award degrees for these. Writers still publish books.

Writing in the new media is not a replacement but an addition to traditional genres. Much of it is a hybrid form somewhere between speech and formal writing.

It means kids are, in fact, doing a lot more writing and mastering a much wider range of styles.

"I hear YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are merging to form a super Social Media site – YouTwitFace.
~~ Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show (June 2009)

These bookends have been part of my life for many decades. I am sure books aren't going anywhere anytime soon.


HappyOrganist said...

oh I love the quote - that's marvelous ;DD

Yes - with all the new media - I can understand worry. I personally am not a big fan. I mean I like some if it all - but I also ancient enough that I'm set in my ways and not liking any 'new' things now. I think the word is 'luddite.' Did I spell that right?
And long-live in-person interaction (there are so many benefits to it). Smile at the person next to you and chat it up with the neighbor or cashier at the grocery store.. ;)

Mike Smith said...

In moderation, social media can be a good thing. It certainly seems to make the world a smaller place! Hope all is well with you, Peggy.

Cozyflier said...

Peggy, I don't think it is infantilizing the brain. My only concern is when I see a group of people say out to dinner and they don't talk ~ they are all on their smart phones texting, playing, or whatever!! I think social media definitely has a place, and yes, bloggers write, and people read these musings! I have friends all over the world because of social media!

Now, if people are only playing games all day long this is not good, but you could also be watching TV all day long, or drinking all night long. Any one thing in excess is bad.

People don't like change, but change is what makes the world go round!

Hugs my friend!

Christine said...

Long live books AND social media!

bill lisleman said...

I was thinking the bookcase makers will be looking at a big downturn. Maybe the increased sharing of thoughts will make us all feel more connected. I heard there are about 2 billion online now. We still have a few more billion to add. Everything has pros and cons. Balance is the important idea.

Roban said...

New media has helped me make new friendships, but I will always enjoy a good book (print or e-edition!). I miss "letters," and am the world's worst now about mailing a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g! What I've noticed about the easy availability of electronic devices is that people tend to play games, check Facebook, etc., when they could be doing something else, like creating art, planting or caring for a garden, or, [gasp] cleaning house!

I've debated on buying a personal iPad or upgrading my Nook to the Nook tablet. I'm leaning toward the Nook tablet because I don't want to "enjoy" all of the fun that an iPad has to offer. My paints may dry up from lack of use!

Marja said...

Hi Peggy. I think social media certainly has an important place and gives us new oppertunities. Blogging is still my favourite though. Thanks to it I started writing poetry and making pictures. I am sometimes concerned about some young folks who rely on it a bit too much and don't develop enough social skills away from the computer.
We hang out on the street and in the parks when we were young having fun and playing games. I think we learned a lot. Ah well I think every time had it's own challenges. Hope you have a good week. Arohanui marja

Chapter Forty said...

Any change usually brings some kind of panic then people adjust and start worrying about the next thing.

Twitter has brought about
Very short story- where the medium's limitations are pushed and creativity results
see here!/veryshortstory

Good and plenty said...

Ever an optimist. I think that those of us who were reared in the pre-social media times will remain rooted in the print world and the media world. I think youngsters will have a tough time learning to love print and verbal forms of communication unless it is nurtured by their parents and schools. I have seen both phone communication and email communication lessen. My children and my husband's daughter prefer texting and Facebook messages and will even send those rather than reply to an email. Downtown Boston currently has no bookstore save for two used bookstores. Boston was a bookstore town! A private school here announced about a year ago that it was doing away with its print library in favor of ereaders, etc. I've also noticed that my phone conversatins (from friends) have diminished to the point that I am sometimes surprised and startled when the phone rings. There have been enough interviews with college kids bragging that they don't read the texts they are given rather they read synopses they find on the internet.
I do think a lessening of attention span, a tendency to want to be entertained quickly rather than to savor is an inevitable by-product of the communication technology we have.
Thanks for this post.