Are we really writing? – Final

We are technically living in the digital age, but are we actually writing more than the generations before us? Handwriting and calligraphy are being changed out for keyboards and fonts. Can it really be considered writing?  The internet is a large place, as diverse as it is limitless, and has become a spaceless location, full of ideas and communities, most of which, communicate through writing.

Much like language, writing has changed over time. How we use it to communicate ideas has melded around the means by which it is sent. Letters were long, and well thought out, because they traveled more slowly, and had to be written by hand. But they also didn’t start for the common man, as education was reserved for the higher classes, limiting the use of letters.  Emails weren’t quite as long as letters, but are considered electronic mail, and aren’t used as instant messaging. Emails do vary more then letters though, ranging from short messages to long letter formats.  I’m not including emails as a main form of communication for citizens of the Internet, because in my opinion, like letters, it’s on its way out, and didn’t affect the way we write as much, because it’s simply digital mail; there’s no cap on length and nothing that drastically affect style.  Telegrams were the first large change in the way we wrote.  Instead of long, detailed essays, they were generally short and concise, like twitter, relying more on context, but generally with more purpose. Social media is how we communicate. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, YouTube, Google Hangouts, these are the future of communication. Through the Internet, T.V. is a form of communication, but people are starting to cut the cable, and T.V. is moving online, as well as radio, and music.  Humanity is made up of 1’s and 0’s now.  And if you’re writing or not, depends on the person, and what they’re typing.  Status updates that are only made up of links aren’t writing, but thought provoking and argumentative ones are.  Even if you’re just writing a few words about your day, you’re keeping a public journal.  People now blog (and vlog).  On Tumblr and YouTube, people will rant, talk, discuss, teach, and add their two cents. And these are undeniably writing.  Perhaps not so formal and classic as letters or books are supposed to be, or always as thought out as a dear john letter, but there is most certainly a prose, which constitutes it as writing.

Reddit is the public square of debates.  And the catalogue of everything that is human.  Much like the public squares in Rome provided a place for people to debate and speak, and less like how the crazy person on the subway yells politics thinking people can or are actually listening to him, Reddit has became a community centered around debate.  Unlike other commenting systems, Reddit isn’t only individual comments all about the same thing, but rather comments that lead into discussion and debate because of the systems nature and structure.  It’s also a catalogue of humanity because it has a place for all humans. We’re a diverse species, so when you create a community of millions of people and give them freewill, they’ll take it and make something versatile.  And debates, though not necessarily the most long form, are important because of the issues, of course, but also because of the critical thinking that needs to happen in order to participate and make an impact in a debate or in depth discussion.

I have also found a lot of cultural discussions on Reddit (and a fair handful on Tumblr, as well).  This is when the term “citizen of the internet” really shows, because not only are they creating their own virtual culture and debating world news, but they’re sharing and comparing their cultures. In affect, diffusing them.  Diffusion happens when cultures interact, and combine in many ways, and the Internet has sped this up tremendously.  Reddit, in my opinion, being one of the main catalyzes.  If left to it’s own for long enough, I believe that it will slowly allow all cultures in the world (connected to the Internet) to become closer to one universal culture of humanity then it has ever been, or been capable of being, before.  All of this operating through a medium of text and language, punching holes though the language barriers. 

Facebook has recently decided to avoid and ignore language barriers, instead of directly breaking them down and combining them, by rolling out a translate button.  It will now translate any status, comment, or other text that isn’t in your default language, into English, skipping over any idea that language was ever a barrier to communication and writing.

One of my favorite YouTubers C.G.P. Grey summed up social media and writing well when referring to Reddit, saying that the internet and the digital age are a lot like life: it is what you make of it.


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