Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The need for speed vs. the art of writing


As someone who has spent most of his life working in the communication business, this edition of Salt is of particular interest.

Our entire planet is communicating at a pace that is almost frightening. Thanks to the Internet, an event that is happening halfway around the world can be posted online for millions of viewers to see or read instantaneously. There are obvious benefits to such a rapid flow of information, but there are also drawbacks. While we are all communicating faster, we are losing the very art of communicating – and make no mistake, good communicating is an art form.

Through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, people are communicating instantly and often with multiple people at once. Sentences have been reduced to an endless string of acronyms, spelling is almost inconsequential, and punctuation is usually nonexistent.

But perhaps more importantly, the expressiveness contained in good writing has become a casualty of instant communication. The warmth, emotion, love or yearning found in long and thoughtful – and usually handwritten – letters or notes is virtually impossible within the 140 character limit of Twitter or the short bursts of innocuous comments and posts found on Facebook.

Even email – a relatively new mode of communicating that already seems almost outdated – seems to contain a ponderous amount of reading if the text extends for more than a paragraph or two.

At age 56, I sometimes find myself longing for my youth. But I can say without reservation that I am glad I was young before the Internet devoured us. I grew up writing stories and letters by hand, before eventually graduating to a manual typewriter. I am grateful to have learned how to write, how to communicate, by putting emotions, ideas or dreams onto paper. Writing - crafted slowly and thoughtfully with each word or sentence carefully considered – can be cathartic, invigorating and fulfilling. I recommend it.

I hope you enjoy the features and stories in this edition of Salt about the evolving nature of how we communicate, and consider whether efficiency necessarily equates to progress.

Gary is publisher of The Times-Gazette in Hillsboro.

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