ALL PHOTOS: Unsplash
Is the ‘Internet Age’ Having a Detrimental Impact on Our Language Skills?
TOMORROW will be a very positive and productive day…
where I will champion and celebrate great things/people in the music industry. One thing I wanted to raise, and have noticed, is how attitudes and mentalities are being altered by a reliance on digital outlets. I interview a lot of artists via email and often send out questions on a Word document. I know many of us are not always accurate regards grammar and punctuation – I am not perfect by any long shot – and am finding a lot of errors and problems cropping up. Some artists put a huge effort in and, for the most part, the answers I get back are accurate, require little editing and seem perfectly good. There are a few, however, whose command of their native tongue seems lacking. I will get documents riddled with simple errors and poor English. As I type this; I am second-guessing everything and wonder whether I am getting to the point quickly enough (probably not!). I think the Internet is a fantastic thing and has progressed humanity in so many ways. We can reach the entire world and have a greater access to other people than we did decades ago. It is wonderful being able to reach someone in another country or hearing any song you want within seconds. I have written extensively about the Internet addiction and the consequence on our mental-health – so I shall not tread that ground too much when making this point.
I have received some documents back where I have had to pick through the answers - and spent longer editing than I did writing. Some would argue this is not too much of an issue considering most interviews are verbal and it is a journalist’s job to proof-read what a musician writes. That is fair enough but I wonder, as we become more digital and less physical – are we losing an ability to communicate with others and articulate the same way we did years ago?! The deepest and most meaningful connections I make are when I speak to someone directly and engross in conversation. The Internet and social media are wonderful but I fear my time spent there is chipping away at my language skills and ability to write as sharply and proficiently as I want. Not only are some musician’s written responses lacking – when it comes to basic language and accuracy – but there are more concerning realisations. As a journalist; I look at artists’ pages and how they promote music. Some of the content/responses I see are troubling, to say the least. Many so-called ‘fans’ are posting hurtful and offensive comments at the artists: in fact; the sort of language and interaction I am seeing more frequently leaves me troubled. Many might say this is the way things are going: the fact so many can retain a sense of anonymity and protection – behind their screens – means their inhibitions are eroded.
We know there is bullying and harassment online; people are less afraid to offend others and, connecting that to music; are we losing basic language and interaction skills. I love writing but I feel myself getting a little rigid and lost at times. I lack the fluidity I would like and find my ability to be concise and clear does lack now and then. Maybe offensive comments and Internet trolling are not related to music directly – they do show there is a problem in the way we communicate and conduct our lives. I am a little worried the Internet and social media are damaging me as a writer. It is an invaluable networking tool but, as I spend most of my free time in front of a screen…I am out in the open less and not really communicating with other people. I am more confident, relaxed and open when face-to-face with someone: the insular nature of the Internet means I am losing basic abilities and struggling to ween myself away from the digital community. One of the other worries I have is the nature of songwriting and how language is used in music. There are some fantastic songwriters out there but I feel, as we regress and retreat into the online more – there are fewer standout lyricists; fewer original songwriters who challenge convention and stand aside from their peers. Certain areas of music (in terms of genre) have some brilliant poets and linguistic jousters who keep the English language very much alive and well.
Maybe it’s me, but I feel Pop music is becoming simpler and less articulate by the year. Mainstream artists are struggling to break past clichés and stereotypes; the lyrics one hears are filled with lazy metaphors and samey suggestions. That might be a sign of commercial demands but, tied into my worries around interviews and the standard of the written word – I am concerned the quality and standard of songwriting is declining. The people I have included in my blog – all of them – do not fall under this accusation (that is not me protecting my back: I am looking out at other musicians). There are incredible songwriters around but I am rarely struck by brilliant wordplay and phenomenal couplets. A lot of songwriters, when they are not performing and traveling, are dedicating their lives to the Internet and online demands. The fact they are not spending as much time socialising or reading means their ‘conversation’ and learning comes from the Internet. Social media sites are filled with lazy statuses and people abbreviating wherever possible – pages of poor language and negative expressions. If we expose ourselves to this more and more; that means the way we write and speak is affected. I am noticing something happening in music. Maybe it is not a lack of intelligence and innovation: language is more ‘punchy’ and not as compelling as once was. As I say; tomorrow, I will move onto positive aspects but this has been playing on my mind – does the digital age mean we are not really expected to write as acutely and eloquently as we used to?!
I have read some shocking answers but do not blame any artists – it is a trend that is becoming more common. Mainstream Pop, for the most part, is at its least inspired and I am finding myself more interested in compositions and melodies than language and lyrics. Many will pick this piece apart and come to conclusions: my views are subjective and one-dimensional; my writing is not up there with the greats of literature! You would be right regarding the second point: I feel we do not necessarily place the same value on language and expression as, say, when I was younger. Perhaps we cannot blame the Internet and social media for a deterioration of interaction and language skills. It is clear we are less communicative and connected – ironically! – than ever and, in my view, letting basic abilities rust and fade. I find myself, at times, recalibrating and trying to remember how to have an actual conversation. The remedy for this would be getting out there more and forsaking the grip of the Internet: for people whose stock and trade rely on it; that compromise is a lot trickier to accept than you would think. I am a huge fan of words – in case you hadn’t guessed! – but worry we are less articulate, profound and arresting than decades ago.
Where we have made leaps in terms of technology and the way we can reach the rest of the world; have we, ironically, isolated ourselves and replaced, in many ways, physical interaction with a synthetic version?! I can see the way songwriting has changed and long for armies of songwriters who push past the ordinary and really get into the mind – there are far fewer than I would like, that is for sure! All of this comes back to the way we use the Internet and whether digital outlets provide the same intellectual nourishment and stimulation as, say, books, newspapers and human socialisation. Maybe there is no easy solution but it is evident advances and benefits of technological advancement have compromised other areas of our existence. Language is a beautiful thing and it is always evolving. We are communicating differently – many would say we are more engaged and curious than days before the Internet. From my viewpoint, seeing songwriters emerge and working as a journalist; there are problems emerging – at the very least, there is a ‘laziness’ that is affecting my work. I notice the quality of my work slip and realise it is because I spend so much time away from other people. I do not read as much as I should and isolate myself to a degree. Music amazes me and I think we have come a long way in so many other areas. The industry is huge and open; there are so many sub-genres and fascinating angles; some incredible artists and big breakthroughs. My concerns only apply to a small portion of the industry – and I am hopeful things will change and a revival will occur. Maybe the modern age means language has permanently changed and this is the way things will always be. I acknowledge there are a lot of benefits and positive evolutions; alongside that is a decline in language and the written word that…
CAUSES genuine alarm.