Back in 2008, I posted Duz Web Mak Us Dumr?, which explores the impact of communications technologies on human thought and perception. Comes now David Solway, with a post about what he sees as the devolution of both spoken and written language among America’s young.
Not sure how much of his analysis I agree with, but I thought it was interesting enough to put up for discussion. Many of the comments are pretty thoughtful as well.
5 thoughts on “Duz Web Mak Us Dumr?–continued”
Texting and Twitter are destroying communication skills. They are full of contractions, abbreviations and acronyms. Unless you are into that world these communications are practically unreadable. They will find that when they have to communicate with people outside that world, like when they grow up, they will be perceived as functionally illiterate.
I think Solway is falling into the “kids these days” trap. I hate to break it to Solway but he was as articulate at the age of 18 as he seems to think it is.
He wasn’t as respectful to his elders either. Older people to often mistake the skills and attitudes they learned over decades of adult experiences as the lessons they actually absorbed as a child. Granted, their elders back then tried to teach those lessons but only a small percentage of each generation of children actually arrive at threshold of adulthood with those lessons deeply internalized. Instead, we arrogantly sally forth thinking we know everything and that everything new is better than everything old. Then the school of hard knocks kicks the crap out of us and we realize that, “hey, mom and dad were right!”
The speech of young adults has, since classical times, been filled with faddish, emotional slang that seems shallow and tawdry to their elders. People eventually grow out of it because such slang simply can’t carry the information load of real work communication.
They will find that when they have to communicate with people outside that world, like when they grow up, they will be perceived as functionally illiterate.
I think you are forgetting that “people outside that world” will be just the older people who never learned the short-hand. Every one of that generation will know exactly what their peers are communicating.
I do think there’s some “kids these days” flavor to Solway’s article, and not all of the communications patterns he identifies are necessarily bad/useless. For example, consider the rising inflection in sentences like these:
You know that secretary down on the third floor? You know what she did?
The first question could be understood as an attempt to make the conversation more interactive and establish a common context…maybe the other person *doesn’t* know that secretary down on the third floor and the conversation needs a subroutine explaining something about her.
But I do think communications media have a huge impact on perception and thought, and these are well worth pondering..
Changes in communication style do have cultural meaning, but I will not consider them deteriorations until I have evidence other than my (age-culture-biased) sense of what sounds right.
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