God bless Clive Thompson, first and foremost.
This is the first book we’ve read in this class, and honestly probably the first one on this subject, that after reading, I feel pretty hopeful about. I’m not annoyed by reductive logic or misplaced fear, and the author doesn’t write like his speaking to peons who don’t know what An Internet™ is.
My favourite part from this section by far was his discussion of what writing does for thinking, and his near-immediate dispelling of how “all this new writing” is bad or how texting/tweeting/other shit boomers hate etc. is rotting our brains and making us worse than in ye olden times. It’s wonderfully refreshing reading a text where my eyes aren’t rolled to the back of my head as the author prattles on about the dangers of typing el-oh-el. His bringing up of the study that showed only a very small percentages of texts use “text speech” (they’re called abbreviations, acronyms or initialisms everywhere but in situations where disparaging teenagers is fun & cool and are reduced to a more derisive term only when people seek to belittle those of who they see as the audience for their derision, typically millennials/gen z, if I may point out) and that there’s actually a positive relationship between text talk and vocabulary was important in this point, and I’m glad he brought up such a new and provocative addition to this viewpoint.
Sidenote: There’s something here, and it’s very late and also my own personal dead week hell so brain no work good, about the connection between gender, text speech, and the hatred of such that feels like it should go something like this: much like how vocal fry/uptalk is something more often done by women and thus the criticism of this is often actually criticism of women and the ways in which we’re taught to speak, because text speech is firmly in the realm of teen girls (“omg lol” said every teenage girl in a 2004-2010 teen comedy), the criticisms of text speech are suspect of the same — that is, people who criticize text speech aren’t mad at the omgs themselves, but the ways of speaking that women (the Other) use more often than men (making it non-normative to say lmao or brb). It may be that it’s not a fear of women’s speech but a fear of general other as it manifests in language, but I’d still be really curious to look at the gender divide of text speech and acceptability — i.e., are there certain initialisms that are seen as more acceptable than others? Is omg a feminine word and less acceptable than something like brb or jk?
The actual meat of Thompson’s argument, that the act of writing is where the thinking happens (only past the time of learning how to write well, iirc) was really interesting. I’d, despite being a writing major, writing as a side job and having been using writing in therapy/general self care for years, never thought of it like this, about how writing isn’t just the sum of thoughts but the actual clarifying tool. Writing as extension of self into the possibility of understanding by others is simply fascinating.
This makes it all the more important to me to be sure I’m always at least trying to mean what I think I mean when I write things down, and to be as specific and precise as possible in articulating my thoughts through written words. I think the one downside of things like social media (but also: the ability to self-publish, blogging, and any non-traditional mode of language transference to a wider audience) when it comes to writing is that, because of the sheer volume and accessibility social media provides us, it allows us to be less precise.
When I can make a twitter thread and then later quote tweet myself when I think of a better way to phrase something, or add onto the thread whenever I have new ideas, it means that I’m not trying for this specificity from the get-go. When the option of simply putting something out there for other people to see without actually having to try and mean what I want to mean is available, it’s all the more tempting to say fuck it.
Traditional modes, because of their near-one shot at saying something at any time, doesn’t allow for this. We have to try for specificity at the time of publishing, because past that, Barthes comes out and whatever we mean doesn’t matter anymore but only what we actually wrote.
However, and this feels like an important caveat, non-traditional means allows also for quicker, more fluid thought. Twitter can act as the pen and paper I would normally keep to myself until it’s time to publish, and I can be constantly in a state of development. It also allows me closer access to an audience that can, essentially, say “nah dude, this is bullshit” that doesn’t come from, say, the writing I do at the Exponent. I don’t believe this means that the ideas expressed on Twitter are less valid than the ones in published articles so much as that they trend towards works-in-progress and not polished, finished thoughts.
The creativity and always-there reach that social media provides is a really nice tool in this way, though one that we can and should be a touch cautious of, if only for allowing us this less-formal, more fluid space.
But not too cautious. We don’t want to be turning into baby boomers, now.
“fahsioned” in the same phrase as a dismissal of the usefulness of autocorrect is frankly incredible. Why, indeed. Also, bold words from someone who probably still calls it “the Facebook.”