The language you deserve

 

“In general, every country has the language it deserves.”
Jorge Luis Borges

If the above is true, what does the way we are forced to communicate on Twitter say about the people we are becoming?

For us adults, who have grown up in a world where long-form narrative has held significant sway against the short sound-bite and reactionary utterance, probably not too much. We have not been socially educated to “think in the 140”. But, I have to wonder about what effect the status update psychology will have on our children, and to sound biblical: “our children’s children”.

In general, Twitter-speak is extremely short-form, highly reactionary, immediate and almost pathologically anti-nuance (with the exception of smilies and hashtags). Baroness Greenfield claimed in a Guardian article (http://bit.ly/kfiXq) some time ago that a sense of identity can be eroded by “fast-paced, instant screen reactions, perhaps the next generation will define themselves by the responses of others”.

My career involves a certain immersion in social media, so I can see how the next generation, due to the prevalence of social networking, will likely be more attuned to how to build social networks, how to distribute and retrieve knowledge and how to react quickly to situations (at least virtual ones).

What I don’t know, and what is potentially more haunting, is what they will lose out on?

I believe that there is an inherent value in being expected to remember stuff; rather than just retrieve and distribute content (the primary social networking mode). David Dalrymple goes as far as to write that the Internet has made acquiring “a large body of knowledge” unnecessary, since it can be “supplied externally”.

The co-founder of Wikipedia Larry Sanger writes: “Belittling substantial knowledge as unnecessary rote memorization, in the new age of Internet searching” shows that the “Internet is being made to substitute for the difficult work of developing individual minds”.

If either of these statements is true, then the future great thinkers and “intellectuals” may come in a substantially different form to those that have come before.

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