Our View ... #STOP!Why is it any better or easier to say, “#Sad” when you’re talking with someone instead of, “The death of the soldier makes me sad,” or “The end of the movie makes me sad”? And why bother saying “LOL” — if you’re not actually laughing out loud when you say it?
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Comedian and late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon recently did a comedy sketch with pop star Justin Timberlake, with the two of them conducting an entire conversation using hashtags. For the uninitiated among you, a hashtag is that trendy, cross-hatched symbol — formerly known as the number sign — made popular by social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram. It’s supposed to serve as a way of categorizing comments so they can be grouped according to subject matter for those who care enough to want to search it out. Fallon and Timberlake demonstrated the absurdity of the current obsession with hashtags — so much so that there are those who actually use them in spoken conversation, much in the same manner as those widely used abbreviations such as “LOL,” “OMG,” and the dreaded “WTF” made popular through texting.
At the risk of seeming hopelessly old-fashioned, the question must be asked: “What in the world are we doing here?”
Why is it any better or easier to say, “#Sad” when you’re talking with someone instead of, “The death of the soldier makes me sad,” or “The end of the movie makes me sad”? And why bother saying “LOL” — if you’re not actually laughing out loud when you say it?
One of the celebrity judges on a well-known talent show is fond of speaking in hashtags. While the other judges go on at length to assess the merits of a particular performer, she just says something like, “#Pow!” It kind of makes you wonder if folks have lost the ability to speak in complete sentences.
Every generation has had its own form of cultural expression, and so to be too harsh on this one is probably unfair. But the overriding issue is really that technology seems to be exerting an undo influence on the humanity of this generation, and in some cases that gets us into trouble.
A leading psychologist recently indicated that the rise of communication through social media, particularly sites that give folks the “inside track” with celebrities or people they don’t know well, causes users to feel they have a closer relationship with others than they really do. As a result, their own behavior and beliefs tend to be influenced by that person, sometimes to an unhealthy degree.
Further, Popular Science magazine announced last week that it has decided to pull the plug on allowing comments on its website. The magazine’s publishers declared they’d had enough of “anti-science bashers and political railing … that run the risk of changing the way people understand science.” Apparently, there was too much misinformation being passed around, based on the comments of faceless readers who may or may not know what they’re talking about.
More and more newspapers are beginning to go that same direction as well, discovering that often only a handful of “commenters” — many of them fond of mean-spirited character bashing — are showing up time after time on their websites, compromising any serious, thoughtful commentary in favor of brashness.
A couple of weeks ago, our newspaper printed a brief tease on our Facebook page from an article about Native American student performance that was slated to appear in the following day’s issue of the Pine Journal. Almost immediately, comments started to pop up accusing us of everything from poor journalism to racism. And while the temptation was to lash back and be angry over the fact that they formed so strong an opinion based on just a few sentences, that’s exactly what this new world of “abbreviated” communication has brought us to. We seem to want to get by with the minimum amount of information in the fastest way possible.
The story itself was meant to be a positive reflection on how some of the students in the district who are struggling to keep up have thrived under a new educational approach. A state educational advocacy organization particularly singled out advances among Native American students. But based on a couple of sentences, some were misled into believing we were saying otherwise.
Maybe it’s time to stop depending so heavily on social media to tell the story. Maybe it’s time to go back to relying on a more traditional form of communication, one that depends on complete sentences and the entire story.
Sometimes less is more — but often it isn’t.