One of the most visible, powerful and unavoidable signs of a change in our times, in the world as we know it, is language. Across the globe, across cultures and borders, the evolving formulation, form and expression of words has been a natural occurrence with the passing of time. As we have moved from one generation to the next, one phase of history to the next, one culture to the next and even one period in a nation’s redevelopment to the next, the language used to communicate has always acted as a mirror of change.
Today, however, the rate evolution of language, and communication per se, has been dramatically accelerated through the injection of new technologies into the human desire to ‘connect’ with others. Not long ago when we wanted to communicate with another person a phone call would be made to arrange for a meeting, be it social or business. Time was invested into communicating through words and physical expression. The quest and actual fulfillment of desire to communicate could extend over a period of hours even days. But alas carefully crafted was ultimately replaced by more staccato statements. Tight telexes and faxes took over as time – sending time – started to become a constraint. Communication became curbed. To connect more and more meant simply to be in contact.
And then the cyberworld broke open for the common man across the globe. While the internet dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, the invention of the worldwide web unlocked a platform for data sharing, from information to invitations, which took us into a mode of communication beyond anything we had ever seen before or could ever imagine. Boundaries of language, style and time were dissolved. Take email for example – a staple in daily communication for a significant proportion of the western business community. Suddenly, with the push of a ‘SEND’ button we were able to communicate across the world in a matter of seconds. And, where once we were patient for a reply, we soon began to want, and expect, immediate reply.
From that moment on there was no looking back. Not only were new forms of communication changing our ability to communicate, they were beginning to change our communication behaviour.
Importantly, our ability to connect to one another became not only an expression of desire to communicate, it became a statement of practical technical capability to communicate.
What has been equally fascinating to see is just how our written word has changed, dramatically, in the past five years. Computer based email was soon complemented by mobile text messaging – SMSing. With SMS text messaging came a complete reinvention of how words and expressions are created. Short-form became smart-form. Code became cool. Sadly, however, correct spelling became laborious, etiquette became lame.
And now today when we find ourselves reprogrammed. We see any line of characters – numbers or letters – preceded by www. and our brains automatically begin to dissect the statement. Not long ago we would have looked at the illegible collection of letters (and now numbers) and not thought twice. It was incomprehensible. But today, without a moment of hesitation, we absorb the letters and allow our brains to break the code. More times than not within seconds a statement emerges – a name, a phrase, a message which makes sense and acts as a call to action to click and find out more.
These changes in our written word, and methods of spreading them, have created a confidence of self-expression which has been allowed to explode, in breadth and exhibitionism, with the latest wave of technology trends. Whenever and however we wish we are able to post our thoughts to the e-world. We text and we twitter, we blog and we skype, we facebook and we youtube and we chat. And when we are not sure about something, we google. Communications nouns have become verbs.
24/7/365 our words reach out to our ‘friends’ in our now socially networked world. And the more friends we have, the more important we can often feel and the more courageously we write.
So, has the communications explosion of our generation been a good thing or a bad thing? The answer to that question is highly personal. Just like our very personal, globally reaching messaging.
What we should never forget, however, is where it all began.
The essence of communication is connection. True connection. The kind that brings people closer together in thought and spirit as a basis for building relationships, not just in wires and websites and wide-reaching networks of our friendlies. Our technology – the tool for communication – should never become the reason for our communication.
Today’s array of formats for sharing thought and ideas are, without question, great advances in our ability to come together as a global community. They have enhanced our ability to reach out. It is then up to us to be able to meaningfully touch the minds and hearts of those with whom we connect. It is our responsibility to ensure that our words continue to reflect, with accuracy and authenticity, who we are and how we wish to come closer to others. First as faces and heartbeats.
Then and only then as e-addresses.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2009