In the last year or so, there have been essays written mourning the loss of penmanship due to everything being typed into computers. We've been seeing articles fretting over the demise of proper language skills because of texting. Those things are worrisome, but it's beginning to seem like they might just be scratching the surface.
Years and years ago, a college assignment was to write a short paper about the value of language. Right off the deep end I went, writing about a village that had forgotten language and was burnt to the ground for want of the ability to communicate. My instructor liked it enough to submit it for publication, and so began my life of rearranging words. Never did I think that I'd be pondering the possibility of that happening, however.
The advent of e-mail meant that people could talk to others almost instantaneously all around the globe. We all had an instant audience. Initially, it seemed that people were writing much more than they ever had before. It was wonderful. An excellent example would be soapmaking. We'd learned from a single (not so great) magazine article, and then a lot of trial and error. Suddenly there was a screen that held all the secrets that had eluded us! The sharing of information was beyond what any of us had previously imagined. There was a lot of what was called "flaming" as people tried to learn how to speak to invisible, disembodied others and take into account all the kinds of folks would be out there. Netiquette was born. It was a good thing, but not easy at first.
Blogging begins, and again the sharing and learning and attempts at understanding other kinds of people is further underscored.
Then what we now call "social media" came into being. I resisted for a very long time, and then fell right into step on Facebook. I even tried Twitter for a short time, but the limit of (is it?) 120 or 140 characters, while sometimes amusing from a word puzzle standpoint, lost it's luster quickly. Facebook devolved into a place where mostly we all click the "share" button to pass around something we like, or worse, we "like" something. Liking something is akin to a grunt, really. It says, "I want you to know that I care enough to acknowledge this, but don't really have a comment." In marriage or other long-term relationships, it would definitely be a grunt.
I have been heartened to be included in a couple of private groups where actual conversation goes on, but it is not the norm. The Yahoo lists that flourished for a decade are fairly flaccid now, and many people while still reading them, do not wish to respond. It would seem that actually having to type out an entire sentence or paragraph is just too much. I don't mean that in a sarcastic way. It just feels that there is a societal shift to extreme brevity.
Maybe it's because we've all been burned in one way or another. Had our ideas taken because we forgot we were talking to people we didn't know, gotten attacked for telling our story, or maybe it was just the sheer volume of talkers made many others feel that their contributions weren't of value.
I've come to miss the real conversations. I miss people who were new to something inspiring others to look at it in a new way. I miss the days when everyone's words had somewhat equal value. More than anything, I hope that we don't lose our ability to converse, share ideas and knowledge, and express ourselves. Here's hoping that the next change on the horizon (there always is one, isn't there?) will bring us back to our ability to communicate.