Today a flashing message on the marquee of a local high school caught my eye:
SOCIAL MEDIA THE NEW LITERACY
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK
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.