Is Social Media the Death of Quality Communication and a Modern Babel?

by mo on April 5, 2009

A discussion surfaced on LinkedIn last week in the Public Relations and Communications Professionals List. With 17 comments within 12 hours (and counting) this posting hit a nerve. Seventeen comments may not seem like much but in my experience with LinkedIn, good discussions are few and far between. (Feel free to comment on this observation.) The posting was inspired by comments made by veteran NPR news analyst Daniel Schorr lamenting the diminishing role of a skilled editor to catch errors and clean up grammar. Complaints about poor writing were the focus of most comments not surprisingly, but thoughts on role of an editor were surprising.

Social media has created a style of writing that is more conversational and this informality most participants in the discussion agreed, seems to point to a growing sacrifice in quality of writing. One participant pointed out what we are experiencing as a lowering of writing quality or standards is due to the democratization of communication tools. More people now have the opportunity to communicate to a larger audience so we should not be surprised to see that many of them do not have the skills to communicate effectively.

Lamentations about poor grammar, sentence structure and poor classroom instruction aside, participants appeared to be more concerned that the quality of thinking should be more of a concern. With this comes the need to edit oneself. I was surprised by one communications professional who offered that the breath of opinions communicated through social media is superior to traditional media – calling the act of determining newsworthiness as censorship.

True, an editor can kill a story that someone else may think should be introduced into public discussion. As the Internet gets more and more cluttered, I think some of us will wish a wise newspaper editor was in charge. The reader already has to evaluate the expertise of the many voices taking part in new media. And yes, it is pretty easy to spot something not worth reading and move on. As more and more people appear to want to present themselves as the next important voice, the noise it becoming deafening.

This may be the challenge for all true communication professionals: lead the way with thoughtful and articulate writing that cuts through the clutter and prevent the tremendous opportunity that social media and networking offers from becoming a modern-day Babel.

Will information overload “confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech”? Genesis 11:1-9


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