Don’t Waste Your Words

In considering this post I was originally inspired by a thought that entered my head. It went something like this:

In a world of increasing threat of legal action, it’s becoming more and more important for us to be aware of the contracts we enter into and the legal ramifications we expose ourselves to by what we say and do.

It was something perfectly fitted for a post on Twitter and were I still active there I would have posted it and not given anymore thought to the matter, other than how to condense it to fit the posting limitations.

Upon reflection I realised a few things about this way of sharing that bug me.

For one I don’t really get to elaborate on what I’ve written. People either get it or they don’t. I can come across as perfectly witty or perceptive for posting something like that (at least I hope so) plus there wouldn’t be any need to elaborate further on my point and substantiate with any evidence. Who knows whether I have the sources to back up my views or whether there is any proof of what I’ve just claimed?

Secondly, it’s really easy to share what I just typed (all 140 characters or less) in it’s entirety. This might appear to be a good thing what with people up-in-arms about being misquoted and resorting to quotation approval. So if someone’s tweet is quoted in it’s entirety it should be harder to misread, right? Not quite. As most tweets are not supported by additional information from the author and can be easily retweeted ad nauseum it’s hard to provide any context for them. I’d argue that as a result that makes it easier to misquote a tweet instead.

To avoid that problem I’ve had stopped posting on entirely because as far as I can see words have become more and more easily shared in this connected world we live in and that scares me. I feel that increasingly people are sharing stuff that shouldn’t be shared in the first place. I know of people who’s only updates come in the form of “I’m now here at …. place” or “I’m now running on the treadmill”.

To be honest, who really cares? I don’t want to know every trivial detail about what you’ve eaten or where you’ve been and what a great time you’re having with your cat  or on holiday. I especially don’t want to know these things when I’m stuck in my office reading about these updates on my computer screen. It makes me envious and unhappy. I hate being envious and unhappy. When I’m home with my family and happy I might be more charitable in my attitude but more often than not I’m not looking for a window into an alternate world then. I’m happy at home with my family.

What I do want to know are updates of significance. The birth of a new child, a death in the family, a change in careers or something meaningful that highlights how these social networking sites are making a real difference to our lives. Politicians, for example, are learning how they can get their messages across easier through things like Facebook and blogging, whilst Twitter was essential in rallying support during the crisis in Egypt. But aside from those cases, most of the time messages of significance aren’t able to be brought across in a short post. You need to actually sit down and type it out and that takes time and effort.

In the past when people wanted to share a message they would write it down on paper. If it was a personal letter it had to be mailed which cost money and you had to find a post box to drop it off in. You couldn’t get a message across to someone without bearing some personal cost (time or money) nor would it be sent immediately. So whatever you wrote had to be important or at least have some meaning. Nowadays a message can be composed, edited, have photos added to and sent out to the vastness of the internet all from the palm of our hands.

You would think that by being able to write so freely and share (and collaborate) so quickly we’d be inundated with an overflow of such wonderful literary creations that completely dwarfs all that the world has seen before. But instead of the thousand monkeys on typewriters for a thousand years producing Shakespeare, I think you’d end up with something far closer to what Facebook is today.

I believe that words are precious and that they are a window into the writers soul. I’m not here to deny that and I do believe that most people who post stuff online do it with the genuine intention of sharing something that they believe has given them some value and is worth sharing with others.

However I also believe that caution has to be exercised. Words can not only build a person up but when abused can tear someone down. Having something abusive hurled at you in person or on the net hurts… there’s no denying that. Everyone (myself included) should think twice about what you’re planning to post online because once it’s out there it’s in the public domain. You can delete it but more often than not someone’s gonna copy it and it’ll still come back and hurt you.

So for me, I’ve given up on short posts. Longer posts allow me to think more critically and reflect deeper on the things happening around me and how I feel about them. I hope never to hurt anyone with what I’ve posted and I do exercise a level of care when it comes to composing any post on this blog that I did not exercise elsewhere. I love to write and am deeply proud of anything that gets posted here.

If you are like me and you want to write about things and add to the conversation on the net, go ahead, start a blog and get cracking. Just be careful about it and make sure that you’re sensitive and humble at all times. All other thoughts can just go in a private journal; don’t waste your words.

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