In this day and age, with the growing popularity of social networking sites, a question weighing on the minds of many is this:
What is the future of writing in this social media-centered age?
A recent article, written by Clive Thompson for Wired magazine, looks at the effects of the Internet and social networking sites on the quality and quantity of today’s writing. While many people are under the impression that social media and the Internet are causing a dent in the amount of time spent producing quality writing, these worries may be unnecessary. If anything, people are doing more writing today than has ever been done in the past. According to Wired, we collectively produce millions of books worth of writing on the Internet every day – around 36 million books worth. Thompson writes:
“Globally we send 154.6 billion emails, more than 400 million tweets, and over 1 million blog posts and around 2 million blog comments on WordPress. On Facebook, we post about 16 billion words. Altogether, we compose some 3.6 trillion words every day on email and social media — the equivalent of 36 million books”
Thompson also adds that comparatively, the U.S. Library of Congress only holds around 23 millions books.
What makes this abundance of writing so incredible, Wired reports, is when it’s compared to what existed before the Internet. Comparatively, people wrote very little. “Before the Internet, most people rarely wrote for pleasure or intellectual satisfaction after graduating from high school or college.” Today, with the rising popularity of blogging, writing for pleasure has considerably increased.
Some might argue that the quality of the writing making up that 36 million book equivalent produced every day on the Internet is relatively low. However, this may not be the case. Thompson writes, “just as we now live in public, so do we think in public.” The consequence of Internet writing being highly public causes results in something called the “audience effect”, which causes people to write more carefully when they know that they have an audience for their work. The larger the audience, the more the audience effect comes into play. Thompson explains, “when you write something online—whether it’s a one-sentence status update, a comment on someone’s photo, or a thousand-word post—you’re doing it with the expectation that someone might read it.” The article details an assignment given to students at Douglas College in British Columbia as an example of the audience effect. Students were asked to write Wikipedia articles, instead of research papers, about Canadian authors. According to their instructor, the student’s work improved exceptionally when writing for the critical Wikipedia-reader audience as opposed to their professor. Students spent far more time finding credible sources for their research.
Overall, it appears that the effect of the Internet and social media on writing may be more positive than previously perceived, leading to more collaboration between writers and more sharing of ideas.
Link to the entire article: http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/09/how-successful-networks-nurture-good-ideas/