By Andrew Boyers
This morning, 250 million text messages will be sent around the country. I’ll probably send five or six of them. And as I finish, I might join the eight million UK Facebook members to update my profile.
Technology is shaping society and the modern world as we know it is developing at a biblical rate. The internet, mobile phones and laptops have become an extension of our beings, as integral to our lives as the opposable thumbs that use them. But what impact is it having on the way we speak and interact?
On the US television show, Californication, Hank Moody said: “People don’t write anymore, they blog. People don’t talk, they text. No punctuation, no grammar-LOL this and LMFAO that.” Is communication via technology anything more than hollow sentiment? And are we really secure in such an environment?
The Internet shrouds a multitude of insecurities. Some might say it’s a tired argument, but how can safety ever be fully guaranteed? Only last month, a 15-year-old girl from Cleethorpes was found in France with a 49-year-old male after making contact with him online. Whilst this continues to happen on our doorstep, it’s a question that must still be asked.
And when we divulge so much information, how can we be sure it won’t come back to haunt us? The media is littered with stories of such cases including that of Matthew Lewis, a young Conservative expelled from the party earlier this month after making jokes on Facebook about Madeleine McCann.
Will we see a news cycle where a Prime Minister is embroiled in scandal over a Facebook image? It would be wise to stop for a moment and understand that what’s on the internet, whilst instantaneous, is also permanent. Even if an image or comment is deleted, it can still be exhumed from the depths of cyberspace and used against someone.
No realm of our life is private anymore. We exist in an era of 24-hour surveillance with our own personal detective agencies, and people are only too happy to provide the most menial pieces of information. Right now through the joy of the increasingly popular social networking site, Twitter, I can see that ‘DanielFrmSctlnd’ went to bed six hours ago and ‘JeremyRowe’ is looking into planning applications for decking.
If we eat a piece of toast, it seems we must now Tweet about it. But we can only use 140 characters, so mentioning that tasty bit of jam or marmalade is definitely out of the question. Still, your followers-and that’s what they’re called because they’ll hang on your words the same way the Disciples would adhere to the teachings of Christianity 2,000 years ago-won’t care that your message is only 140 characters. They’d be satisfied with 14, as long as they’re in the know. But why are we concerned with the most mundane moments in people’s lives? Would we really be bothered if it wasn’t for Twitter or Facebook?
Communication in the modern world embraces our need for instant gratification but provides little long-term satisfaction. Our vanity is indulged as we update our status so that we can massage our egos and unabashed desire to be better than thou. Similarly, we spy on others in the hope that they have slipped on the banana-skin of life. It embraces our arrogance and often our pleasure in the plight of others. But it’s acceptable, and indeed possible, because we do it from behind our keyboards away from prying eyes. To say we’re part of one global network couldn’t be further from the truth; we’re more detached from society now than ever before.
Communication in the technological age is an illusion, representing the denigration of interaction and language that brings us together. Instead of laughing over a beer with a friend in the pub, we’re sat typing “LOL” on MSN. And what are we actually saying we’ll BRB to-a keyboard and computer screen? LOL, OMG and BRB have now become familiar parts of the English vernacular, just in the same way txt msg spk hs bcome nrml 2. The problem is now so bad that the Scottish Qualifications Authority has deemed it permissible for pupils to write in text language during exams-Hamlet’s famous speech acceptably reduced to “2b or not 2b.”
Language is evolutionary; meanings change and words develop over time. Even our very own English language is a mongrel amongst thoroughbreds-a bit of Saxon here, a touch of Celt there. But the words conjured from the modern world aren’t evolutionary. They’ve bred a pseudo-communication that resembles cave man speak more than Queen’s English.
Perhaps I’m being old-fashioned, and I know I may seem as though I long for a bygone era where the pen was mightier than the sword. However, I do like the fact that I can quickly reach someone (providing their phone isn’t switched off and their laptop hasn’t run out of power) to see if they want to go to the cinema. It makes life a lot easier.
Technology is, in some respects, helping us interact and stay in touch with people. And I have no problem with that, as interaction is essential to our very existence. But I can’t help thinking that instead of being a vehicle for the society we live in now, technology is creating a society of its’ own where interaction is no longer meeting someone in the street, but on the Information Highway instead.Tweet