As we discussed the transformation of communication over the last 200 years in Tuesday night’s class, it occurred to me how as the quantity of communication has increased, the quality has certainly decreased. When cross-country, transatlantic or even down-the-hall communication was a challenging and time consuming, I suspect there was more substance per message. A person who was sending a letter overseas would write a significant amount, knowing that it would take days to reach the recipient and that it could take weeks to hear back. As transit times and communication barriers have decreased, so thus has the importance of making every word count.
A personal example of this evolution has occurred just over the last 6 years. When I first started texting, there were a finite number of texts I could send per month, and a finite number of characters per text. Consequently, I understood that each text held value, and these were reflected in my style of messaging. When I was allowed a measly 100 texts per month, my response to a question such as “lunch at 12:30?” would be “absolutely, lunch at 12:30 in the cafeteria is perfect,” ensuring that my marginal cost per character was minimized. Then as my limits increased to 200, 500 and eventually unlimited texts per month, my style of texting also changed. Now the goal is to use as many texts as possible, ensuring the minimization of the marginal cost per text. This inevitably leads to conversations like the following:
This transition, frequently resulting in poor grammar and adjusted spellings does not imply a decrease in intelligence from the time when written communication required much more thought. I don’t think that we as a species are any less intelligent now than we were before. But, in a few hundred years when anthropologists look for clues to determine how our society lived, I hope it isn’t my cell phone that they base their conclusions on.