The Dissemination of Thought

Just because it's in print doesn't mean it's intelligent…

Injecting humanity back into social networking, one keystroke at a time

with 45 comments

I’m writing the draft of this piece on a typewriter.  I’m enamoured by the way each keystroke caresses the A4 with romanticised authority, leaving its meaningful inked kiss on the cheek of the paper.  The battered machine also represents my protest against becoming a greeting card.  Against the dehumanising effect social networking has had on the way we communicate.

Back living with my parents in order to graduate within a ludicrous timeframe, I’m 1,800 kilometres from my main circle of friends and reliant on social networking to keep in touch.

Ironically, I realised this morning I’ve become robotised by the very thing I depend on to maintain my links with humanity.

The revelation came after sending a birthday message on Facebook.  Upon rereading what I’d written, I realised it was as clichéd and predictable as a Hallmark card.  When had my greetings become devoid of all originality?

The answer was simple: since embracing the social media phenomenon.

When I write my blog, I wear my professional hat.  My words have meaning and a defined purpose: to entertain and engage.  Unfortunately, my personal writing has fallen victim of the instant nature of the social networking message, more often than not constructed without deliberate thought or consciousness of its meaning.

The situation is ridiculous.  Messages to my friends should be intimate and heartfelt.  Thoughtful.  They deserve the same level of consideration and planning that goes into even my most hastily written blog piece; why aren’t they getting it?

In my blog, the carefully crafted words cause the reader to feel something, good or bad.  My words compel them to react.  It doesn’t matter whether they comment, subscribe or send an email; the point is, my words have meaning and incite a reaction.

With my personal writing, the responses I receive are as disingenuous as the greetings I send.  “Have a fantastic birthday!” is usually met with “Thanks, I’m having a great day.”  The words are there, but they’re meaningless and bereft of feeling.  It’s as if we’re communicating purely to adhere to social convention, not because we actually want to speak to one another.

We need to be cognisant of the fact our fascination with social networking has caused a regression in the way we correspond.  As someone who takes great pride in their ability to communicate effectively and with feeling, the impact it has had in such a short period of time bothers me.  It needs to change.  The quality of our personal communication needs to return to its pre-Facebook and Twitter level.  If it doesn’t, we’ll eventually become nothing more than numbed, fleshy greeting cards that fire off generic messages because we feel we have to.

In acknowledging my descent into communicative banality, I’m also attempting to redirect it.  I’m now making a concerted effort to ensure thought is put into every keystroke.  Each word that appears on my screen needs genuine meaning.  I urge you to do likewise.

Before you send your next tweet or message, ask yourself: “What would I say if this person was in front of me?”  If you answer honestly, it often won’t reflect what you’ve typed.

It’s not too late to rehumanise how we communicate.


Written by disseminatedthought

February 12, 2012 at 10:32

45 Responses

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  1. I was going to “Like” this post, but that seems to fall right into what your post is so brilliantly saying. (So instead I will say) I couldn’t agree more. We seem to be losing originality, creativity, and willingness to be real. (Whether being positive or negative online).


    February 12, 2012 at 10:58

    • Absolutely. So many messages I receive (and send) via social networking have a “one size fits all” feel about them.

      Thank you for your contribution to the discussion, and welcome to The Dissemination of Thought.


      February 13, 2012 at 08:03

  2. I suspect that part of the problem is that others, including Facebook (and, in the case of Twitter) the rest of the net that’s paying attention, will also be seeing our thoughts.

    Nice post, in my opinion the best one you’ve written on social networking so far. Looking forwarded to the next one. And where do I find a typewriter like yours?

    Neil Fein

    February 12, 2012 at 11:08

    • Neil-I saw an old electric typewriter at a thrift store. My 18 year old son asked me what it was! If that isn’t an indication of what us “old timey” communicators are up against, I don’t know what is.


      February 12, 2012 at 17:33

      • I saw a portable electric “suitcase” typewriter in a Goodwill today, and thought of this article.

        Neil Fein

        February 13, 2012 at 06:01

      • Welcome to TDoT. You should have bought it and made him type “this is a typewriter” 1,000 times.


        February 13, 2012 at 08:09

      • LOL! Yeah, I probably should have. I was too busy feeling old, though,


        February 13, 2012 at 10:03

    • Is there a chance we’ve forgotten, at least in part, how to communicate one-on-one? People are now so conditioned to presenting their message to a large (and often global) audience, maybe they just don’t feel compelled to put genuine effort into a greeting for a single individual. If that’s the case, society is screwed.

      I’ve found eBay to be a great source of charming old typewriters. From memory, I paid about $15 (plus postage) for mine.


      February 13, 2012 at 08:18

  3. Ironically….. shared to facebook with comment LOL. Great article.


    February 12, 2012 at 11:27

  4. 🙂


    February 12, 2012 at 11:31

  5. I love your unwavering conviction! The problem is we are two thousand plus years in where creativity becomes harder and harder. With vast resources available at our fingertips to “spark” that creativity, we can’t help but rely on history when producing the fresh and new. Isn’t that the beauty of this world? enabling the disenfranchised to express themselves in ways they never could (or would) before??

    delphic thought

    February 12, 2012 at 11:32

    • What good is creativity if we become numbed to the point of not being able to recognise or appreciate it?

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and welcome to TDoT.


      February 13, 2012 at 08:29

  6. Stellar!! This is my favorite post of yours so far, period. I agree that birthdays lost some of their intended luster due to social networking. Before, we would only hear birthday greetings from those who were really our friends and close family members. Remembering at all as a distinct act of friendship. Now, it’s only a social obligation, a reflex upon signing on– “Let’s see, who do I need to wish happy birthday to today?”

    I found a great blog about a guy who played a trick on his friends list, by changing his birth date to see who would notice. It was barely six months after his real birthday, and an astounding number of people were oblivious and wished him “happy birthday,” — again. His point was that these people don’t care about the individual themselves, but just are compulsive virtual birthday celebrators. He said a regrettable few– who had actually CELEBRATED WITH HIM on his real birthday, also wished him happy birthday again. A small group noticed the hoax– but only a few.

    Unrelenting Amee

    February 12, 2012 at 11:33

    • You’re spot on: it’s become a chore. The emphasis is now on making sure your generic message joins the 403 others on the birthday boy’s/girl’s Facebook page, and not on the actual content of the message itself.

      I love the concept of the faux birthday. How socially unacceptable would it be to try it myself?


      February 13, 2012 at 08:41

  7. Thought-provoking post. Sadly, I think the concept extends into the off-line world as well: all those birthday cards I send the old-fashioned way via snail mail probably don’t convey any deeper sentiment than the quick on-line birthday nods do (though I have purchased a card with the individual in mind and taken the time to have everyone sign it, so I guess that is something). Have online shortcuts and superficiality invaded our “face-to-face” interactions as well?


    February 12, 2012 at 12:03

  8. I absolutely love this. You said what I feel, better than I could’ve said on my own.

    Adrienne schmadrienne

    February 12, 2012 at 12:27

    • Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed reading the piece. At least I’m not alone in my belief that the way we communicate via social networking needs to change. Urgently.


      February 13, 2012 at 08:48

      • I wanted to re-read this when I wasn’t working on my 3rd vodka & water while waiting on my cousin to arrive at the bar.
        I’ve been thinking about your post even more after Whitney Houston died and the trite updates people put on their Facebook pages about her passing. I actually saw a comment to a post by someone thanking her for her music and how it helped this person through a tough time in their lives. The comment was “tears”. My how heartfelt. I died a little on the inside when I saw that comment.

        Adrienne schmadrienne

        February 14, 2012 at 06:22

  9. Reblogged this on finnegan2749.


    February 12, 2012 at 13:19

  10. Good. Good! The next step in the evolutionary timeline, plausibly — is it really possible? Are we capable as a species yet, to handle such a dramatic change in behavior – would be to consider: leaving our individual shelter pods, disconnecting from our devises all together, to travel some distance (by carriage, horseback or foot perhaps) to be in the same room, sitting directly next to or across from, the people we are looking at in the eye, and sharing a meal, a glass of wine, a laugh or cry with? Hum…well…oh Dear, on second read, it’s all entirely too silly of an idea. Never mind. Forget the suggestion.

    Peach Farm Studio

    February 12, 2012 at 14:04

    • Are you crazy? Are you saying that we should try going back to communicating with people face-to-face? What a preposterous suggestion; people have been burned at the stake for suggesting less.


      February 13, 2012 at 08:55

      • Shhh…. quiet…. let’s just keep that silly ol’ ridiculous little suggestion between us. FB, TW, TB, PI, LI, G+…. none of them need to know. ‘k?

        Peach Farm Studio

        February 13, 2012 at 11:16

  11. Love it! And I couldn’t agree more… I’ve written about sending hand written notes and letters, because frankly, I enjoy getting something other than bills in the mail and so do my friends! I don’t know that I would have used a typewriter, although I keep a 1930 something Remington Noiseless 8 on my computer desk and I’m prone to writing drafts longhand.


    February 12, 2012 at 15:15

    • I can’t remember when I last received (or sent) a handwritten letter. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say about 2003.

      The Remington Noiseless 8 is a great little vintage typewriter. I’m officially jealous.


      February 13, 2012 at 09:07

      • The typewriter belongs to my mom… she got it when she was in high school. It’s written a bit of the family history and I thought it was a nice juxtaposition to the computer (like my mom’s brownie box camera sitting next to a SLR & DSLR).

        The art of handwriting is going to become a lost art… Cursive writing isn’t taught in the classroom anymore in California. Students are given hand outs and told to practice at home – we’re going to have generations of chicken scratch ahead of us!


        February 13, 2012 at 10:34

  12. I couldn’t agree more.. I feel that perhaps it’s the sheer volume of communication we are exposed to on a daily basis.. Some days I have the time to think and respond genuinely, on others I feel overwhelmed and feel fortunate to even communicate a few words…

    Just A Smidgen

    February 12, 2012 at 16:25

    • You raise another important question: Is responding with a few disingenuous words at the time of receiving the message now more socially acceptable than delaying your reply until a time when you’re able to construct a thoughtful response?


      February 13, 2012 at 09:12

  13. Then again, If I didn’t have social media reminding me who’s birthday it was, I would never remember to post generic messages in the first place.

    Casey Marriott

    February 12, 2012 at 21:53

    • What about a diary or the calendar in your mobile phone? Do you really need the birthdates of the 598 Facebook friends you don’t really know or care about?

      Thank you for adding your thoughts to the discussion, and welcome to The Dissemination of Thought. We’ll all chip in and get you an old-school diary for your birthday.


      February 13, 2012 at 09:17

  14. I have to say: I hate facebook. It lacks of soul , people showing always the bright side of theii lives… is so shallow.; but I also feel that is an awesome tool for help to spread my work;

    We are losing our humanity. The need of hug someone that you like, instead of write any robotic and empty message. I love your last paragraph :

    ” Before you send your next tweet or message, ask yourself: “What would I say if this person was in front of me?” If you answer honestly, it often won’t reflect what you’ve typed. ”

    If you allow me, I would like to translate your post to portuguese and share in my blog, of course with your authorship.


    Alessandra Nava

    February 12, 2012 at 21:55

    • Thank you for your feedback, and welcome to The Dissemination of Thought. I’d be more than happy for you to translate the piece into Portuguese. Actually, it’s probably better you than me: the only thing I know in Portuguese is the word for beer.

      Author’s note: it’s important to know how to ask for a beer in at least 16 languages, just in case you wake up/regain consciousness in a strange country, thirsty and confused.


      February 12, 2012 at 22:08

  15. Very well said and I completely agree! I have written about this topic as well, and I am continually baffled that our efforts at becoming more connected through technology are actually having the reverse effect. I’ve tried to make more of an effort to phone people, but I must admit, I usually revert to the trite drivel of facebook and text messaging. Life is an energy drainer and we are exposed to so much media, social or otherwise, that it’s hard to tune out the unimportant stuff and give attention where it is deserved. Social media makes like easier in a lot of ways, but I sometimes miss the days when the only options we had to connect with others were the telephone or face-to-face.


    February 13, 2012 at 01:36

    • While I’m fascinated by social networking and the possibilities it offers, it really is an overload of unnecessary information and inane thought. As you said, we begin to tune out because we feel so overwhelmed, and I think that’s where the dehumanising begins; liking someone’s status update isn’t the same as laughing at the joke they’ve just told you over a glass of wine.


      February 13, 2012 at 09:26

  16. This is what I’d say if you were here:
    It’s frightening what we can become if we don’t stop and think.
    Typewriters are such a pain in the ass when u make typos. Sheesh, and the smell from all that white-out will fry your brain cells. Anyway, another stellar piece my friend. (makin’ people think)

    Cakes McCain

    February 13, 2012 at 08:36

    • I admit my laptop is a hell of a lot easier to write on, especially given the number of mistakes and changes I make, but I just love the simplicity and romance of the typewriter; they are impractical and cumbersome, but so am I.


      February 13, 2012 at 09:33

  17. Very thoughtful peice. Made me think about the reasons we actually use social networking sites, especially if it’s not for “humane” conversation. Check it out
    I do agree with you, social networks seem to have taken a route for the worst when it comes to the way in which we speak to eachother.


    February 13, 2012 at 17:46

    • Thank you for mentioning my piece on your blog, and welcome to TDoT. Anyone with a Cookie Monster Gravatar is welcome back at any time. When you return, make sure you bring enough cookies for everyone.


      February 14, 2012 at 22:34

  18. Great observation.

    Over typewriters, emails were quite an advance for their day, offering instant delivery and the convenience of being able to use word processing to correct spelling, etc. to clarify your message in advance. But otherwise, emails still remained pretty much akin to written or typed letters — free text; uncontrained by length or content.

    But the advent of social media increasingly imposes the preengineering of the size and content of thoughts — sort of like the condiment packets at a takeout restaurant. How many words/characters are needed and what their content should be has been preengineered for you, removing even the capability for independent thought. The packets contain just the correct amount of the correct condiment a faceless engineer has decided is advance appropriate for the occasion, which itself has often been predetermined.

    We are truly measuring out our lives in coffee spoons.

    John M

    February 13, 2012 at 20:09

    • “…sort of like the condiment packets at a takeout restaurant.”

      Fantastic analogy. As a recent addition to the Twitter family, I’m already finding myself frustrated with the 140-character limit: it’s as if they’re trying to tell us any message over that size isn’t worth sharing.

      Thank you for contributing to the discussion, and welcome to The Dissemination of Thought. Are you trying to steal the little sachets of salt and pepper?


      February 14, 2012 at 22:47

  19. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said: social media certainly has impacted the way we communicate with one another and made it easier to be lazy in our interactions.

    That being said, it ultimately came from us, the humans and it can be whatever we want it to be.

    It’s not social media’s fault that humans tend towards lethargy and the lowest common denominator, but it is our job to use these things responsibly and keep the meaning in our relationships.


    February 14, 2012 at 03:43

    • The number of relationships we try to maintain through social networking is an issue too: what’s the point of having 600 friends on Facebook if you only ever meaningfully interact with 60 of them?


      February 14, 2012 at 22:39

  20. I think this post is beautiful and very insightful. I love how you said messages to friends “should be intimate and heartfelt” and your description of a typewriter is pretty and poetic. Also, as I’m one of only 3 (no, wait, make that TWO) people in the world not on Facebook OR Twitter, thus you can probably imagine the pressure I’ve had from people. Although it seems that the world ends, as does meaningful conversation, if one chooses to not be on Facebook, but I disagree.


    February 20, 2012 at 15:14

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