Is subtlety in writing facing new challenges from social media? Or is social media providing us with new opportunities to be subtle?
Everyday I observe two different kinds of status updates on my news feed on Facebook. One kind comes directly to the point in as few words as possible, oftentimes using abbreviations I am too old to be cognizant of, filled with ellipses, dropping unnecessary words and letters wherever needed quite ruthlessly.
The other kind of status update is from older, more scholarly people used to traditional forms of writing who write whole paragraphs with punctuation marks and capitalizations intact. The comments on their posts show that the same is true of people who read them. It’s as if they’d like to write whole short essays if they didn’t run out of space.
Needless to say, the second kind of writing is out of place and will not be the dominant trend on social media where the intent is communication. It doesn’t look like the younger generation will revert to that old mode even in places where there is opportunity to write a lot such as in emails.
As brevity becomes more and more the norm, it becomes harder and harder to accommodate introductory material or explanations or any kind of additives that add nuance to writing. It could be a wrong subset of people I am looking at, but has anyone been missing subtlety in writing nowadays?
Within such a brief space as tweets and status updates allow, there is no choice but to come straight to the point and just say what needs to be said and be done with it.
Compare that with the old, handwritten letter. Each letter would take so much effort to write (find paper, write, seal, walk to the post office) that one would probably want to include some embellishments in the writing itself.
Ease of dispersion seems to have taken out some artistry out of the common person’s photographs too. As digital pictures have become so easy, many people put less and less care in selecting or captioning photographs as they would if they put them in a physical album. Hence, hundreds of photographs are sometimes uploaded without screening and one is sometimes made to feel that one has had a surfeit of smiling faces.
At the hands of the occasional interesting person, these tools that the digital camera and social media afford become an opportunity. You get the subtle humorous tweet or the picture that captures a moment. After all, brevity is the soul of wit and to be witty you need to be subtle.
But for the rest whose storehouse of wit isn’t efficient enough to be compressible, will the bare minimum of words as the standard mode of communication take away subtlety?