In high school I started to shape into a deeper writer. I listened to a lot of Radiohead and learned how to actually express through words. What I wrote was cynical and emotional, in addition to my usual trademark of scrutinizing things half to death. There was thought. There was language. There was, at times, art. Nowadays I spend about three seconds writing a sentence, get distracted four times before I finish it, and half the time it turns out like a 7-year-old wrote it. If you do the math there, that’s like, a zero percent success formula. What happened to my writing? Better yet, what happened to our writing?
Let me preface by saying the following analysis will be entirely based on my own experiences and generalizations (oh weird, is that something you do here?). Let’s start in the not-so-distant past.
A few weeks ago, someone on my team at work challenged us to not use a specific marketing buzzword for the day. Anyone who succeeded would receive a prize of some sort (no idea if that part actually happened, but that was our incentive). Now, I work with a whole bunch of smart people – team, office, company, however deep you want it to run – who should very easily be able to execute on such a mission. The majority of us, however, lost our focus and swerved into the buzzword trenches that surround original thought (okay, my elimination was bogus…that’s not the point here, but I’m also not going to let that go because this is my blog, my story, and I need to save face wherever I can).
I’ve been thinking since that mission, we (not my team, but all of us humans – okay, probably just Westernized humans) are kind of idiots now, aren’t we? Not because we can’t go a day without using a buzzword (when your whole job is built around that word, and everyone you speak to during the day is accustomed to it, that’s a tall order), but because our ability to both use and be flexible with language has deteriorated so dramatically that we can barely use it at times. And when we don’t use it, that’s totally cool with everyone – again, because we’re idiots.
Here, this isn’t an attack – let me take myself on first. I have the habit of saying “real” to describe everything instead of using adverbs. Ask something like, “Hey Mike, how was watching five episodes of The Muppet Show last night before you decided to write a blog post?” and you’ll hear back “Real solid.” Or when I can’t think of actual words to respond with in a conversation, I’ll just say, “Oh, awesome” to keep things moving along. Why? Again, generalizing a good deal here – I think it’s because the use and knowledge of language is a decreasing necessity in communication. I also think that stinks a whole bunch because language, when used properly and carefully, is art.
It started with GIFs (okay, it started before GIFs), it moved on to memes (okay, it probably moved on to something else), and it has found its way into the way we write (listen, this timeline is inexact and more than likely completely factually false, but you’re missing the point). Instead of describing emotions, we use visuals and cliff-hanging phrases like “I can’t even” – because we actually can’t think of the words that would describe our feelings or emotions. We (okay not me this time, but the rest of you) use words like literally because we literally cannot think of the appropriate words to use in its place. Because we’re becoming idiots (hahaha, becoming).
I legitimately don’t know if this is a devolution of intelligence or progress in communication. Legit idk. Maybe language is just something we don’t need any more. If people understand the message you’re trying to deliver the same way through a dancing zebra GIF as they would through an actual verbal description, shouldn’t we go with the more efficient and recognizable form of communication? Or should we see it as dumbing down our craft to appeal to a mass audience?
Personally, I see it as the latter. We use a baseline form of communication because it’s the “Common Tongue.” Because it’s CSI instead of The Wire. Because it’s pop music. Because it’s a sitcom. Because it’s easy, and everyone gets it. But the best things we can do usually aren’t that easy, and if we strip ourselves of intellectual challenges we’ll end up just like the stupid, fat idiot humans in Wall-E who ruined earth, and I’d very much like to not ruin earth in my lifetime. Plus, that’s at least the third time I’ve used idiot in this post, proving my point that my writing skills now reflect that of an idiot.
So that’s the challenge now, and one I hope to embark on with some company. Use your words. For a week, use your words. No GIFs. No Doge (please, for the love of God, no Doge). No incomplete thoughts. Fill it in. Figure out how to express things verbally again. Who knows, it may even come in handy next time you interact with actual humans.