How the Internet Has Impacted Writing

There have been recent posts in the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Lingua Franca blog arguing the positive and negative consequences of the Internet on writing. Journalist Clive Thompson, author of the new book Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better, argues that before the Internet many people stopped writing after high school or college whereas today a large percentage of the population write at least weekly if not daily. Although Thompson admits that the vast majority write horribly and much of what you find online is not worth reading, he believes that the small percentage (he estimates 10%) are incredibly strong writers and they challenge readers and other writers to improve their craft.

Image courtesy of Jason A. Howie

In the second post, Ben Yagoda reflects on a recent essay in The Guardian by novelist Jonathan Franzen, concerning how the Internet (particularly social media) has reduced writing to tweets, which are superficial at best and lack structural integrity. As Yagoda states it, “[the Internet] tends to exacerbate certain unfortunate human tendencies, some of which I find myself succumbing to, even as I learn and find interesting new ways of expression. I’m talking about superficiality, triviality, groupthink, meanness, narcissism, and a short attention span: maybe worst of all, a seeking out of short-term merit badges (clicks, “likes,” comments, retweets, page views) at the expense of complexity and depth” (Yagoda, B. 2013).

What do you think?  We’d love to hear from faculty and students about your thought on how online communication has impacted the quality of writing and the writing process.

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