Okay, maybe Crabby Old Lady is overstating it in that headline, but voice and and tiny little pictographs appear to be taking over human communication at the expense of the written word.
It's not just email and texting. When you add Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterist, Snapchat, etc. - all of which often use more photos, video and emoji than words – it appears that the written word is in danger of disappearing.
Before she goes any further, let Crabby admit that since last January, she has owned two Amazon Echo devices – one re-gifted from a TGB reader who didn't want it and another that Crabby, who was amused by the first one, bought for the bedroom at the other end of her home.
She doesn't use them as extensively as many people (and she certainly does not have a “smart home” to command with them), but just by asking she can find out the weather forecast, set a timer, listen to radio or to music or order up the latest news to be read to her, or a book, add items to her grocery shopping list, check the instructions on a recipe while she is cooking and much more.
You can see the insidious attraction.
California entertainment lawyer, Jon Pfeiffer, reported recently on a Harris poll that asked people of varying ages if emoji communicate better than the written word:
”...36% of millennials said that emojis convey their thoughts and emotions better than traditional words. About half as many baby boomers agree.
“However, when you look only at emotion, around 40% of baby boomers prefer emojis. This is not quite as many as the 66% of millennials, but it is still a huge percentage nonetheless.'”
Pfeiffer also quotes Professor John Sutherland on the subject:
“'In the future, less words and letters will be used in messaging as pictures and icons take over the text speak language.'”
(Crabby would be more inclined to take Sutherland seriously, however, if he – a professor of modern English literature at University College London - did not have such a poor grasp of English language grammar.)
Nevertheless, she still worries that these two men are on to something.
Crabby knows that every generation, especially as it ages, believes the world, now run by younger generations, is going to hell in a handbasket. So far that hasn't happened but the loss of widespread literacy would have devastating effect on civilization.
This loss seems to be progressing on several fronts beyond pictures replacing words.
Consider the assault on thought, focus and concentration of the modern workplace. Even before Crabby retired in 2004, cubicles had taken over and she, a writer and editor then, had been give a “cube” next to sales people on two sides of her who were on the phone all day. Yak, yak, yak as Crabby tried to bring clarity to her own and others' writing.
Nowadays, they've even removed cubicle dividers in favor of open space and shared tables, and as voice commands increasingly become the norm over typewriting and tapping, it's not just literacy that is in peril, but thought itself.
Another development is the increased use online of video news reports without an accompanying print story. Even though Crabby produced television shows for more than two decades, she was keenly aware that pictures are an enhancement that are incapable of transmitting nuance and detail in a two- or even five-minute story.
Not to mention that is takes much longer to watch a video news story than read it in print.
Plus, we're talking to our screens almost as much as we are reading them or writing onto them. Some business researchers expect that 50 percent of searches will be done by voice by 2020. If you're not concerned about literacy, at least consider the cacophany – yet another way to prevent reason, intellect and understanding.
Crabby's concern about all this was raised by Lori Orlov's bi-weekly online column, Aging in Place Technology Watch. On Monday, Orlov concluded:
”Our devices, our adult selves – what happened to words? So we are speaking (or shouting) 50% of our queries to our devices, texting selfie animojis and receiving a word or two plus more emojis in return.
“And to add to our not-so-smart phone use, we are overwhelmed by auto-play videos in Facebook, Twitter, and Google Chrome...
“Imagine those noisy employee meetings at Apple (median age 31), Google (median age 30), and Facebook (median age 28) as staffers hunch over their emoji menus, play videos by accident and spend quality time searching for a charging location.”
Those age demographics Orlov includes are not about how youngsters are befouling our literacy. The greater importance is that they will grow older and this will be their normal when it's their turn (not so far off) to run the world.
In case you're not up to speed on this stuff (Crabby was not until now), here are links to what may soon pass for communication and thought, an emojipedia and an emoji keyboard. These are hardly the only ones.
What's your take on all this?