Technology — it always seems to make our lives easier. We throw ourselves into new technologies without really thinking about their ramifications.
I have been around long enough to have seen a radical change in publication technology. Typewriters have been replaced by tablets; printing presses by servers. The internet has revolutionized almost every aspect of our lives. Most of these changes are for the good.
However, people often think that technology permits them to take shortcuts, to bypass the hard work needed to create excellence. This is most blatantly seen in writing. Ask any writer, and he will tell you that writing is tough. Excellent writing requires hard thinking, clear organization, careful revision, and leaps of faith. A good writer knows that, when he publishes something he wrote, he is making himself vulnerable.
Electronic media provides a wonderful outlet for expression. Unfortunately, many people equate the ease of expression with permission to print any thought. All anyone has to do is to read some of the Facebook posts of his 300 or so “friends.” There is such a thing a too much sharing. And real friendship takes time and effort, not just a few hastily written sentences on a social networking site.
The internet lets people participate in news stories by commenting. Yet so many of those comments show poor judgement and poor manners (not to mention poor language skills). There are rules to good reporting that electronic media tempt people to bypass. So many fall prey to this temptation. Rushing to get the story in a world of immediate information leads to mistakes in accuracy. (Can you say “Newtown”?) Skipping revision and copy editing of stories leads to confused readers and poor communication.
The worst pitfall of modern technology is our tendency to let the technology think for us. It’s so easy to just cut and paste something from some obscure web site and pass it off as something we wrote. It is easy to let bloggers and “news” sites tell us what we should think about an event. It’s too easy to just throw something together quickly without properly thinking it through. How many of us press that “post” button without first looking over what we have written?
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to go back to the days of the typewriter. But back then, a writer had to really think about what he was saying before he started to type. At least the typewriter gave the writer time for proper thought and reflection.