Social Media The New Literacy

Today a flashing message on the marquee of a local high school caught my eye:





Among these nine words, only “Facebook” entered our lexicon in the 21st century.

Juxtaposed they are, however, the distinct product of our early century.

Yet their meaning is already so familiar that I wasn’t initially surprised.

While I drove away, though, I thought of the high school kids who attend this school.

None of them was born before 1996.


In the mid 90s, when Microsoft Internet Explorer made its debut and I started to explore the World Wide Web, the world described by some science fiction authors appeared suddenly less futuristic.

However, for the majority of us, the communication landscape was still anchored around meetings and conversations happening in brick and mortar spaces with people physically present.

My younger child wasn’t born yet. His younger sister was a baby and his two oldest still in preschool.

As for me I met my friends at the playground, the café, or the library.

The phone rang non-stop, and by phone I mean the landline phone.

We called to book appointments or just to talk with family and friends.

E-mails were mostly business related.

We took pictures that were developed by a photographer and then displayed in photo albums that were passed around.

We still wrote on paper, including manuscripts, although computers had replaced typewriters.

Who knew back then that the word weblog, shortened to blog, would be one of the most popular writing platforms and that one day we would “publish posts” that would have the potential to be read anywhere by anyone?

In the mid 90s, the thought that we would someday use a whole different set of tools to write and read had certainly not crossed my mind.

The authors who wrote short stories and novels about the changes that would transform our communication landscape were, in my opinion, just gifted with a vivid imagination and experts at their craft. They speculate, I thought, not foreshadow.

Today we live the stories of JC Ballard, Robert Sheckley, Ray Bradbury, and the likes of them.


This morning a hand clasped around my throat when I took in the daunting amount of posts that had poured in my WordPress Inbox over the weekend.

Less than three days ago I had spent a couple of hours checking each and every single one of them and also checked the responses to my own posts.

There is no way I can read each and every one, I thought with a sigh.

Yet guilt washed over me.

I couldn’t delete them. Some came from bloggers I’ve been reading since a long time.

When I scrolled down the impressive list, I felt both overwhelmed and elated.

I saved my favorite posts for later and scanned the rest of them, liking some, commenting on others, adding my two cents.

Yes, people write and read.

When I was finished, the hand still narrowed around my neck.

How do those bloggers manage to be so prolific?

When was the last time I published a post?


And the high school message flashed back to my mind.

Is social media the new literacy?

Will it change children and teenagers’ ability to write and read?

Hasn’t it already changed mine?

And is it a problem?


What do you think?

Is social media the new literacy?


P. S. I read the most thoughtful and exceptionally well written reflections on the topic of new technology and social media and how they transform our communication landscape on Bottldeworder and the Frailest Thing.




  1. We started exploring the WWW with Netscape…before it got stolen by Micro$oft
    Your husband (Netscape alumni!)

    • Sisyphus47 says:

      And Navigator was a wonderful browser! Netscape also developed web servers that held the road… Ah, we had such a good time! 🙂

      • Thanks, Sisyphus. I should have checked my sources! Of all people I shouldn’t have forgotten Netscape that opened the road. Nice to see again on my blog. See you soon on yours.

  2. Bev Broughton says:

    Speculation abounds…where do we go in the next phase…what lingers, engraved in your thoughts…I guess it doesn’t really matter about the communication vehicle…just find the time to ponder and share in your comfort zone.

    • I tend to agree with you, Bev. Writing and reading are still very much alive, regardless of the tools. As long as good stories are told and shared, we will be all right. Thank you for stopping by.

  3. I feel the same way Evelyne when I take a few days off as I did over Easter – overwhelmed by all the posts I have/want to catch up on on. In fact, I was in process of doing just that when I saw your post and just had to come across and comment!
    This is a subject that fascinates me (I’m going to be writing a post about the internet, Facebook and Asperger’s) and I read your post with great interest. There is no doubt that social media has changed the way we communicate hugely. I’ve yet to come to a proper conclusion as to how I feel about it all, being honest! Thanks for bringing up some excellent points, also for the links which I’ll take a look at, but just sorry I can’t answer them. Maybe one day… 😉

    • When I visit your blog, Sherri, I am amazed by the amount of comments you receive and … reply to. No surprise because you are offering us great content. I love that new tools offer us so many options to meet people we would nver meet otherwise. Sometimes, I miss the quietness but then it is up to meet to pause. Until a post catches my attention and pulls me back. And if you have a minute the two blogs I link to are truly great. See you soon!

      • My blog was very quiet until late last summer and then it just took off in that way and I’m amazed and very humbled indeed. I never thought I would have much of any value to share on a blog, I started off writing about my garden robin!! But you are right, in this case, the internet and social media is great for the people we meet. I know what you mean about the quietness. It is getting the balance right isnt it? I struggle with that…
        I definitely will take a look at your blog links, looking forward to it and thanks again Evelyne 🙂

      • Hi again Evelyne, I hope you had a good weekend! I wonder if you would be happy for me to link back to this post when I write my social media post? I would love to share your excellent thoughts here with my readers and it would fit it beautifully with what I’m trying to convey. It won’t be just yet but I’ll let you know before it goes live. Thanks so much.

  4. Very thought provoking post!! I have also been feeling overwhelmed with the amount of time every day that I sit in front of a screen of some sort. It certainly has changed our lives.

    • Thank you, Debz. It is a little daunting, right? I guess it is up to us to take a break and focus on what matters. I just have a harder time to do it and it’s good to know that I’m not the only one. See you!

  5. Thanks for the quick perspective check. I think “literacy” is a bit too flattering. I doubt Facebook has the power to endure like classic literature and the other places where we have gone to consume content. Social media comes and goes, what we have today may not see the start of the third decade in this new century. Writers, endure. Literate people endure and I am very happy to have found this blog. I know that most people consider blogging to be a form of social media – I guess it is, but I prefer to think of it as another outlet for writers.

    • Thank you, Dan. I absolutely agree with you on the fact that social media tools will come and go and that good stories and novels will prevail. I also agree about blogging being an outlet for writers. It can also be a great venue for artists. But we can’t deny the fact that Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and the likes of them, have changed the way we communicate, especially for our children and teenagers. The sensational and provocative is attractive. Being selective and critical is harder when we have so much info to sort through and digest. I will see you soon on your blog.

  6. Sisyphus47 says:

    Nope, it’s not the new literacy, even less the “old” one! Just a way to forget how much our time has been eaten by consumerism! 😉

  7. Good post! I must say, with school age children, I’m trying my best to keep them tied to ‘old’ ways as long as possible: reading paper books, writing in beautiful cursive with pen and paper (they still – thankfully – teach that here in Italy). I love many aspects of social media, but I’m glad I can (still) keep my children’s screen time to a minimum. I know that will change drastically in the teen years, but, despite all the benefits to social media, I do worry about short attention spans and superficial reading skills that often seem the by-product of this new literacy.

  8. This is so interesting to get your perspective because your children are younger than mine and because you live abroad. I applaud your effort to keep up with books and less screen time. You’re right: it gets harder with teens. But as long as parents keep their own addictions under control, our children are fine! There are advantages to everything and young people, because of the social media tools they use, are also very open to others and different cultures. Unlike us who had to travel to understand other ways of life, they already communicate with people from all over the world. It is virtual but a good start.
    However, as you write, their attention span is short. Many teachers notice. Thank you for your visit, Kimberly. See you soon.

  9. Like you, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of blogs to read and it’s very difficult to not read them. Without blogging, I wonder what we would all be doing. Scribbling / typing away hoping that one day someone would read something we’d written perhaps? Like one of your other commenters, I see blogging as a little separate from Facebook and Twitter and the like – I suppose it feels more like traditional reading and writing, more thoughtful than those instant updates. I don’t regret the ability to blog, but I do worry that as the generations change, the old-fashioned forms will be lost.

  10. Thoughful reply, as your writing is, Andrea. I agree that blogging is different from the other social media platforms. Especially for writers. I consider it an important part of modern writing and blogging can also help with discipline. Some blog posts are actually deeper than traditionally published articles. I think that we might have e-published and paper printed material cohabiting for a while. What is getting harder is the amount of material that is available. Sorting through the sensational that too often hides the more meaningfull is the hardest part. And this is what worries me for young kids. That’s why it can be a good idea to keep our old books, even though they take so much room. So nice to see you again.

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