It is with a certain amount of regret that I read that Aurora Citizen is connecting through both Facebook and Twitter – this will allow you to “receive and comment on the platform of your choice.”
What has been becoming increasingly clear to me is that it is the content that is important, not the manner in which it is transmitted or received.
When man’s ability to communicate with his fellows was restricted to visual gestures or grunts, this communication required physical immediacy. Over tens of thousands of years these grunts became what we can today identify as primitive words, and pictures were used to embellish these. Hieroglyphs evolved, a form of pictorial writing, symbols of some complexity as in ancient China and Egypt several thousand years ago. There followed the creation of letters in one of the several existing alphabets and writing progressed from clay tablets to papyrus, animal skins and to paper, always by hand and always by only a few, those known as scribes. Smoke signals were still useful in communicating messages over a distance, much faster than a relay or runners either on foot or on horseback, but these latter could provide details of events, thus news.
Books began their existence as a rarity, produced laboriously by monks in gloomy rooms with, at times, inks of splendid colour when illustration and emphasis were required. But these were time consuming, costly and only for the church or the very wealthiest of titled individuals, Lords or Counts. In time a revolution occurred that was the most significant in man’s communications history – the printing press. This instrument would see the written word literally flood the world, starting with books and then with newspapers and magazines, so that even the poorest could get their hands on something written, often by someone on the other side of the world.
Man’s capacity for technology and ingenuity resulted in a crescendo of discoveries that would speed and enhance the ability to transmit information. The telegraph, the telephone, underseas cables, wireless, short-wave signals and television revolutionized man’s ability to communicate, and also to make war. During the 20th century the technology of communication and indeed of the ability to access and transmit knowledge grew exponentially and devices for these purposes became more sophisticated and cheaper so that today they are in common usage globally.
When I first started communicating internationally I would call the operator at CN-CP Telecommunications at day’s end, and dictate messages that would be cabled overnight around the world. Then came the telex machine that permitted one to write a message onto a paper tape, like a ticker-tape. When the message was completed it was carefully rolled up, with the edge feeding into the gearing, then dial the country and city codes and then the actual telex number and when connected you fed the tape through the machine which transmitted the hieroglyphs to their destination.
The fax machine was the next technological advance and today we appear to have the ultimate in email.
But what concerns me is that the “evolution” of social networking is to a very great extent simply the ability to transmit junk and waste people’s time, especially that of young teenagers, whose lives are already filled with games until they come out their pores. Our bright teenaged granddaughter disdains Twitter as something rather silly; her actual words were considerably stronger.
Our “serious” media have become polluted with a lot of this “instant news” that is taken as factual simply because it might have appeared on one or another of the social networks, possibly as a wild speculation or a gross exaggeration. There no longer exists the need for two or three independent and verifiable sources for a story to be accepted as gospel. The major news television networks and respected newspapers are guilty of running with a rumour, turning it into fact, to be the first with “breaking news.”
I realize full well that there are useful and responsible roles for this latest technology, and no doubt there will be those who, reading this, will condemn some of my opinions. I expect that. If you didn’t I would be disappointed. But I hope that you have the ability to admit that not all that pours forth from this “brave new world” is necessarily good and that there is great room for improvement.
Somewhere, someone sits down with a fountain pen and a piece of fine cream-coloured paper and begins to compose and write a love-letter. Twitter does not seem like the right way to express that person’s feelings.