Humans have been gifted with this incredible thing called language. It allows us not only to talk about the world around us but also to share ideas. It is a tool that has evolved over thousands of years, and it continues to evolve.
As a writer I am fascinated by language and by the way it is constantly changing and growing. New words are continually being added to our lexicon and old words gaining new meanings. Even the idea of what constitutes a language has evolved, take coding languages for example. So, is it fair then to say that social media is killing communication?
I recently read a brilliant article written by Adam Douglas in 1999 called ‘How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet’. Change ‘internet’ to ‘social media’ and his article is incredibly prescient. But the part of his article that jumped out at me most was this paragraph:
“We are natural villagers. For most of mankind’s history we have lived in very small communities in which we knew everybody and everybody knew us. But gradually there grew to be far too many of us, and our communities became too large and disparate for us to be able to feel a part of them, and our technologies were unequal to the task of drawing us together. But that is changing.”
As someone with an interest in social media I’m very aware of its many detractors and their objections, not least of which seems to be that people just don’t see the point. In discussions about social media I’ve often heard something along the lines of “I don’t understand Facebook, can’t people just talk to each other?”
But what Douglas Adams was clever enough to see is that talking is exactly what technologies like the Internet, and now social media, are all about. Perhaps we’re not making noises with our mouths, but when we share something on social media, we are communicating in a way that makes sense for a world of 7 billion people.
Through Twitter and blogging I have had heart-warming and honest exchanges with strangers. I’ve had people I would never have known existed tell me that they like my work and every time I get a glowing feeling inside. Through social media we are talking more than ever, and not just with the limited group of people we know in person, but potentially with people across the globe.
Is it the same as sitting down with a cup of tea and having a chat with an old friend? Can social media really replace being there in person? No, of course not, but that’s not the point. Social media is simply another tool in our mixed bag of languages, but it’s an incredibly powerful tool.
I have a feeling Douglas Adams, not Steven Fry, would be the poster child of Twitter if he were alive today.