Most things we write come out of a moment of enthusiasm
There is much debate about how modern technology has affected the way we communicate and if it has improved or been detrimental to the art of communication. In the 21st century, the human race has more ways to communicate than ever before. This includes the use of the internet, the mobile phone, television and radio, as well as written and spoken communication. With all these methods, why do some argue that the art of communication has been lost? This essay will discuss how the internet has affected this art but it has not been lost but simply modified.
Communication can be defined in many different ways, so in turn the definition of the art of communication can vary. The word communication is from the Latin verb communicare, which means ‘to share’ (Soanes & Stevenson 2003, p. 349) and is defined in the Oxford Dictionary of English as “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium” (Soanes & Stevenson 2003, p.349). Another definition states that communication is “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs…something imparted, interchanged, or transmitted” (Dictionary.com, 2010). However communication can be so much more than these simple and somewhat impersonal dictionary definitions. All species of animal communicate, however humans are the only species to have developed and updated communication methods beyond those that come naturally to us. Speech, writing and drawing have been continually developed through history, in conjunction with technology, engineering and science. The biggest change in communication has come about with the popularisation of the internet.
The internet has had the largest impact on communication in the 21st century. You are more likely to receive an e-card from ecards.com than one in the mail. Studies have shown that e-mail is the preferred method of communication and is replacing face-to-face, phone and memo in different areas of business from banking to managerial roles and aerospace employees (Copher et al, 2002, p. 265). The internet also plays a significantly large part of the public’s social life. Social networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and many others now make it easier than ever to check in with relatives and friends living internationally, as well as discuss the day’s events with nearby friends. It is also a great place for advertising with many bands, politicians, celebrities and even shops having Facebook, Myspace or Twitter pages. The general public can quickly and easily see who is up to what, where the latest sales are, or when the next album is going to be released.
Twitter is a website that allows its members to post ‘tweets’ about what is happening in their lives as often as they like. The general internet consensus is that Twitter is used to pass on the most useless and irrelevant facts about themselves and what they are doing within the 140 character limit. Some Twits (common Internet term for people who use Twitter) recognise this as well, as shown in this example: “Taking a poop. Not really, but this is what Twitter is for, right? The most absolute inane shit you can think of in 140 characters or less?” (Gaddo, 7 April 2010). This shows that modern internet communication can be rather counterproductive. Twitter has had some success stories however. After the tsunami in Chile, a woman was desperate to find out if her sister-in-law, who was in the area, was safe. Mobile phone networks get overwhelmed in emergency situations, phone lines are down and communication is nearly impossible if you live on another continent. However, Twitter’s very short messages use very little internet bandwidth, so a message was able to be sent to the general Chilean public via twitter asking for help and information. This message was then retweeted all over Chile until a complete stranger who was in the area of the tsunami saw it and responded. He was able to find the sister-in-law and report back a positive message to the original poster, all via Twitter (Otago Daily Times, 12 March 2010). This networking would not have been possible even twenty years ago.
The internet has helped define the new generation. Modern children are more technologically literate than their grandparents and parents and a new vocabulary has come about and those who do not use the internet often find it confounding. Words and acronyms such as ‘LOL’ (Laugh Out Loud), ‘ROFL’ (Rolling On the Floor Laughing), ‘BRB’ (Be Right Back), ‘tweet/tweeting’ (a post on twitter/verb for posting on Twitter), ‘noob’ (originated in the online game World of Warcraft, used to describe someone new to a situation/place/skill), ‘newb’ (variation of noob), ‘blog’, ‘pwned’ (from ‘owned’, when you beat someone at something, either a game or an argument), ‘LMAO’ (Laughing My Ass Off), ‘FTW’ (For The Win) and a fair few more originated from the internet (Reisinger, 2009). Other words such as ‘poke’, ‘epic’, ‘awesomeness’, ‘win’, and ‘fail’ have taken on new meanings on the internet. All these words have been popularised so much that many now occur in everyday conversation.
In conclusion the internet is changing the way we communicate in many ways. It has had positive and negative effects on people but it has a very secure place in society. In some cases the internet is a useless timewaster while in emergency situations it can be the fastest and most efficient way to communicate internationally. The internet is changing the people that use it, and also changing the English language. The art of communication has not been lost at all, but now we use different methods and different words.
#1 Chat Avenue n.d., #1 Chat Avenue, viewed 7 April 2010, http://www.chat-avenue.com/
Copher, J.I., Kanfer, A.G., & Walker, M.B. 2002, ‘Everyday Communication Patterns of Heavy and Light Email Users’, in The Internet in Everyday Life, ed. Wellman, B. & Haythornwaite, C. the Information Age Series, Blackwell Publishing, India
Dictionary.com n.d., ‘communication’ in Dictionary.com Unabridged, 28 March 2010, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/communication
Gaddo. K 7 April 2010, Twitter, viewed 7 April 2010, http://twitter.com/cloudmx
Otago Daily Times 12 March 2010, Twitter no timewaster when other line of communication fail, viewed 7 April 2010, http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/opinion/97200/twitter-no-timewaster-when-other-line-communication-fail
Reisinger, D 9 February 2009, How the Web is killing my ability to communicate, viewed 8 April 2009, http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10159372-2.html
Soanes, C & Stevenson, A 2003, Oxford Dictionary of English Second Edition, William Clowes Ltd., Great Britain, p. 349
© J Cox 2010