I had a girlhood crush on an older student called Lisa.
This was during my primary school years. Lisa seemed to have everything. She had lovely clothes and lots of ‘em. She changed her hairstyle regularly. She had many friends and was confident and happy and somewhat aggressive and loud. She had a cool big sister who went to high school.
But one day I had the chance to see a note that Lisa had handwritten. In it, she spelled ‘great’ as ‘grate’. And that was the end of my crush.
I was stunned. How could Lisa (a year older than me) have possibly spelt ‘great’ incorrectly?
Of course, I still see people – all sorts of people – misspelling words. I see poor grammar. (I know my grammar is not top notch and yet that doesn’t stop me from writing. I just cross fingers and hope my readers will bear it). I see misplaced apostrophes and lack of appropriate capitalisation and text speak and words run together like a long hashtag.
And I know, from my Lisa the Grate experience onwards, that it’s not social media’s fault.
Yet I continue to hear others blame social media – and the internet age – for a decline in literacy standards and personal communication standards in general. To me, this seems like donning the perennial rose-coloured glasses. Were youngsters ever lauded for their spelling and speaking skills? (Not in the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ era, that’s for sure …)
To my mind, the popularity of social media supports the importance of literacy and spurs us on to communicate.
We’re encouraged to write, tweet, blog, share, post and read more than ever before.
You can’t turn on a TV or radio station without hearing someone ask for you to contribute your written opinion. “Tweet us”, “follow us” “tell us your thoughts and we’ll read them out on air”.
Emails are a more prevalent form of communication than an office catch up.
Many people would prefer to text rather than make a voice call.
This means we’re asked to write and to write and to write and to write. And we’re asked to read and to … you get the picture.
And no – that doesn’t mean we’re better spellers. But heck, we have more of a chance of absorbing sound writing conventions if we’re writing and reading more.
I was delighted, after doing an online search on this topic, to see Margaret Atwood support this concept. She’s one of my favourite authors. According to the article:
‘Thanks to the rise of the internet and of social media, “I would say that reading, as such, has increased. And reading and writing skills have probably increased because what all this texting and so forth replaced was the telephone conversation,” she continued. “People have to actually be able to read and write to use the internet, so it’s a great literacy driver if kids are given the tools and the incentive to learn the skills that allow them to access it”.’
Every day I’m served up thousands of tweets linking to thousands of articles. It actually gets a bit much. I know that I can read (and comment on) articles containing inspirational ideas, pondering the future, analysing news and just having some plain ol’ fun.
Ten years ago, I listened to a lot of music, read novels, watched free to air television, skimmed through the weekend newspapers and rented movies from the local Video Ezy. I certainly wasn’t fed a stream of content from around the world and many different voices. Today, I read and write more than ever before.
I’m also a member of a Book Club that came together due to social media connections and thrives on social media. Our ‘Books in Pubs’ is made up of Twitter pals; we have a private Facebook Group where we discuss our reading; we use the #booksinpubs tag on Facebook and a lot of us use the Goodreads app to share our reading progress and reviews.
I can also follow some of my favourite authors – Margaret Atwood (again) on Twitter, and Lee Child on Facebook are two examples. Social media enables me to keep up with what they’re doing and interact and generates excitement for their new releases.
Meanwhile, I’m not sure how Lisa is faring.
Maybe her spelling has improved. I suspect it hasn’t. In which case, I’m glad I’m not her Facebook friend because I don’t think I would enjoy her status updates …