Illiterate Social Media


Blogging democratised published writing.  Your article no longer needed the approval of a newspaper editor.  You wrote, and published, and readers knew where and how to find you. Facebook came and made it easy for everyone to post photos and videos online, together with timed status updates which were instantly available to everyone.  It was another major change.  What we wrote no longer had to be interesting.  Someone we know will see what we’re up to, and that, in itself, to the right audience is ‘interesting’ enough. Then came Twitter, which limited the quantity of words in the hope of somehow improving the quality (we know of course that life doesn’t work that way).

For me personally, Instagram was my game-changer.  My blog posts were usually a photo, or a series, with a short commentary; and this was exactly what Instagram offered to everyone, and it looked great on mobile devices.Unfortunately it wasn’t long before Instagram was littered with horrible images of tilted horizons, out-of-focus shots, messy homes in the background of weird family shots.  This was all there, but it didn’t annoy me as much as text did.  I don’t mean artsy prints.  I mean text and not in the commentary but in the ‘photo’! Screen captures of notes, often saying something really important and life-changing like ‘good morning’.  I’m wrong, of course.  They don’t have to be good photos; they don’t even have to be photos.  It was a new medium, to be used in any way people choose to.  When Instagram added videos, I was very excited to explore playing with images and making these short fifteen-second videos.  In Kuwait, the video capability brought to us the many professors of philosophy who tell us everything from where we’ve come from, to why we’re here, to the meaning of life; always in fifteen seconds.  I mustn’t forget the shameless product placements they manage to fit, lecturing about the importance of self motivation while selling us a make-up brush.

The latest is the snapchat ten-second video with a few words and emojis.  More recently, they added those hideous effects.  I personally like snapchat and use it.  I can see its benefit and its fun side; but we have lost something during this evolution.

We went from writing one-page stories on blogs, to one-paragraph status updates on Facebook, to one-liner tweets, to a picture or video with a few words on Instagram, to nothing on Snapchat.  Nothing!

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