In doing some online research recently, I ran across an article in Business Week (Oct. 12, 2009) that exhorts those who don’t “get” Twitter, Facebook or BlackBerrys to “relax.”
The article cites Dennis Baron, an English and linguistics professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, who has written a new book A Better Pencil: Writers and the Digital Revolution (Oxford University Press).
He says one reason he wrote the book was to remind Luddites of the “skepticism that reliably greeted each new communication device in the past.”
And he has a lot of examples. Socrates objected to writing “in part because this invention eliminated the need to exercise the memory.”
Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, turned down a chance to buy the patent rights for the telephone because it “provided no permanent record of a conversation.”
The New York Times editorialized against the typewriter because “it usurped the art of ‘writing with one’s own hand’.”
I remember people being reluctant to leave voice messages when voice processing first appeared. Others objected to e-mail because they preferred face-to-face communication.
Now most of us take voice processing, e-mail and, to a great extent, social media for granted. The article demonstrates that, for the most part, we absorb and adapt new communications technologies until we don’t even think about them anymore.
I agree. I also believe that it’s better not to focus on the method of communication. It’s much more important to focus on the content. Have something valuable to say, and say it. If you don’t have something valuable to say, please don’t say anything.