When I graduated from college and moved to New York City, I wrote my parents and friends back home at least once a week. I actually put pen to paper, sealed my correspondence in an envelope, affixed a $.32 stamp and put it in a blue mailbox on the corner of my Brooklyn street. It was 1996, and no one in my family had email. Actually, I didn't have email. I didn't even have my own computer, other than the one I used at work. Sometimes I miss those days, because I still have the letters they all sent back to me. Even my grandfather wrote me long letters which included family news as well as Bible verses to inspire me. If I hadn't moved away, I never would have received such keepsakes that someday I can show to my daughter. I bet I'll seem really old to her when I do!
So then came technology. Web sites, email, cell phones, texting, now Twitter. With all the LOL's, emoticons and other e-terms I've had to learn, I wondered about the next generation and their communication skills. No more letter writing. Nothing to really "hold" on to. Just little blurbs and blips here and there.
Then it came to me: the kids are communicating. Now more than ever! And that's what's important. Texts, emails, tweets flying here and there. I doubt they could live without their i-phones or laptops! Though abbreviated, they are writing. More so than I did when I had to drag out a pad of paper, buy stamps and wait days for my letter to get to its destination. They're writing every single day. Dozens of times a day. (Mmaybe even hundreds?)
A friend of mine told me the story of when driving with her daughter and one of her daughter's friends, she asked her kid who she was texting. "Abby," her daughter answered. "But Abby's right there in the back seat!" my friend exclaimed. Sometimes it seems kind of crazy to us parents, but that scenario is probably not so strange to kids. And while I feel texting should not be occuring 24/7 (and not at the family dinner table), it actually could be improving their communication skills.
Not only are kids writing more frequently then my generation did at that age, but they're learning to form their thoughts more concisely. As a journalism student, we performed many exercises that aimed to teach us the art of brevity. Every little word should count. Nothing extraneous. And that's just what the kids are doing because they have to. They're conversing in a way that's teaching them to get to the point. To say it quickly and sparingly. Technology just might produce a generation of great journalists after all. Even this article on E-School News.com explains how students' writing scores are improving greatly.
I know many older people yearn for the old days and complain about technology ruining lots of things (especially when their computers crash). But if people are communicating now more than ever, I think that's a great thing. Maybe technology is bringing us together instead of isolating us. And as for the next generation, like Green Day says, "The kids are alright." (Though my pesky j-prof would have corrected them and said, "It's all right, sons. All right?")
'Til next time,