It’s possible you may have heard that Google launched a new service, Google Buzz, recently. In fact by now the odds are that you’ve read a minimum of a couple of dozen articles and opinions on what Google did wrong. Negative sells better than positive.
It’s certainly not a new phenomenon. People have been complaining about the media’s tendency to over-hype and over-react to every bit of news they report on. With the advent of blogs that annoying habit rapidly spread to everyone else who felt the need to share their opinion.
But the advent of social networking seems to have escalated this problem. Now people have to make judgements quicker than ever before and in order to get attention, to get a reaction, they have to couch them in ever more extreme terms.
This constant upping of language intensity numbs the audience and devalues both the previously perfectly adequate words and the words we are now using in their place. It’s no longer sufficient to say that Google showed poor judgement. Now we have to call them evil. So if Google are evil, does that mean we’re placing them on the level of murderers?
The English language contains over a quarter of a million words. With that level of subtlety at our fingertips why do we immediately reach for a sledgehammer?
This linguistic laziness is made even worse by the speed of reaction on the internet. Because not only does the originator of the post have to make a snap judgement, apparently so does everyone who reads it.
But if all anyone does is scream at the top of their voice and repeat the same handful phrases that they just, there’s no value in the medium. You’d get as much insight by standing in the middle of a train station and listening to fragments of conversation from the people passing by.
So what’s the point of this little screed of mine? Think before you post. Life isn’t binary and nor is language. Use the textures and shading that language provides to show the complexity of the subject you’re discussing.
It can be done. Even in 140 characters.