The Internet's Impact on Reading + Writing Skills

Discussion in 'Community' started by ~Shard~, Jun 9, 2005.

  1. ~Shard~ macrumors P6

    ~Shard~

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    #1
    Just some thoughts I'd throw out there and see what people's thoughts are...

    I fear that in this "Internet Age", children are going to start growing up with everything online and will start losing and missing out on experiences such as reading, which truly help to foster and educate the mind. Although it's still just text, whether it's on a screen or in a book, there's something about sitting down with a novel which blows away any experience I can have on my computer. And God knows I spend too much time on there to begin with! ;)

    Plus, although "the classics" (new and old) are available in electronic formats, I would argue that the bulk of "reading" that is done on the Internet is not experiencing the classics of great literature, rather spending time like this on Forums and the like. That's why I make a point to always visit my library and read a book or two every few weeks. It keeps my mind sharp and is an experience I enjoy - an experience which just isn't the same online.

    But the other issue, perhaps more significant, is one of language. Children are going to start relying on typing and SpellCheck to do all their work for them, and Internet acronyms like IMO, LOL, AFAIK, etc. will become commonplace to a point where kids won't even know what they mean. "Internet shorthand", text messaging, and the like will end up creating illiteracy in some instances and the inability to string a coherent, proper sentence together. And what will become of handwriting? Will it improperly become an archaic means of communication in the future? If so, this is truly a shame.

    This is why I want to keep these skills in top shape - reading and writing - as I fear they may slowly become a lost art.

    I welcome anyone's comments and opinions.
     
  2. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

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  3. zelmo macrumors 603

    zelmo

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    #3
    My daughter (finishing up her Jr. year in HS) is a perfect example. She does welll enough in school (B+ to A-), spends a ton of time on IM, and can't spell worth a lick. What is scary is that she doesn't seem in the least concerned with her vocabulary skills. What is most disturbing, though, is that she gets papers and homework returned where, not only does the teacher not correct or even note spellling/grammar errors, the teacher's notes often include spelling errors themselves! :eek:

    She does read a fair bit (usually that's only after TV/computer privs are over for the night. :rolleyes:), and can speak well. I just worry that she won't even be able to prepare a resume that is presentable. Of course, perhaps the interviewer won't even notice.

    I read with my 4 yr old every night, and usually have 3 or 4 books going myself, trying to get in at least a half hour of reading every evening before bed.
     
  4. AliensAreFuzzy macrumors 68000

    AliensAreFuzzy

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    #4
    I think that only some people will have problems. I know that, with the exception of the ocational "lol", I use correct grammar and punctuation whenever I write online, including IM.
     
  5. CubaTBird macrumors 68020

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    #5
    i don't think the internet will cause problems for kids who can't read or write... if anything it will get them to read something... something is better than nothing right?
     
  6. stridey macrumors 65816

    stridey

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    #6
    I think I'd worry about TV's impact on our written skills before I worried about the Internet. At least the Internet makes you read. Plus, as a bonus we get a generation of hot-shot typists.
     
  7. efoto macrumors 68030

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    #7
    So I had something nice written all out and as the mouse approached Submit FireFox hung and crashed....great. So this is the revised and shortened version, because I can't deal with re-typing it all right now, not stable enough for that.

    mad jew, I had something whitty written about how I love reading your little liners like this because I read your sig and think of you saying something like this, "I don't have time to reply to this shi*, I'm mad and jewish". The jewish part, well I don't know...from your name, but regardless thanks for the laughs.

    I think the internet is perhaps only a small step better than television because at least with the internet people are reading, albeit at a relatively low level in my opinion (IMO...more internet shorthand :) ). When reading over the forums, save for the small few we all speak with roughly the same vocabulary and our words are the most generic and basic of speech (through type) that we can quickly jot down to get our point across (omg, I can't spell today...is it only one c there?) I should quit now, prime example right there, but....I think reading is much more interactive somehow (even you physically you do less with a book) and I would venture to assume it stimulates the mind more. I would imagine there is more of a mental feeling of success when finishing a novel then when finishing a the reading of a thread on MR.
     
  8. iGary Guest

    iGary

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    #8
    My biggest pet peeve is when people throw capitilazation, grammar and punctuation to the wind "just because it is the Internet."

    A gal at work showed me an e-mail from her son this morning that looked like it was written by a third grader.

    He is 20.
     
  9. Mr. Durden macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    Just another step in the evolution of society I think. Things change and when they arent what we are used to, they automatically seem wrong or just not right some how.

    For example, you mentioned reading the classics and how the experience isnt the same when your reading it on the screen. I totally agree. However, I think we feel that way because thats how we were brought up. For these kids today who spend more time in front of the computer, it probably feels more natural to read this way (or at least not as awkward as it would be to us older folk). I dont hink its a sign of the Apocalypse or anything, though. Just the way it is.
     
  10. emw macrumors G4

    emw

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    #10
    It's interesting - when I got my first "real" job as an adult, memos were written out - either on a 3-part carbonized memo form, or handed to a secretary to type on a typewriter (gasp). As a result, care was taken to make sure things were right the first time around.

    Back then, I wrote about 1 or two memos a week. The rest was phone or personal conversation.

    Now, I send at least 50 legitimate business-related e-mails a day, in addition to personal messages, and, of course, posting to this forum. Some could say that gives me more practice at being a responsible writer, and I try to keep things proper (I'm anal that way, I suppose), but for many they "just don't have the time" to make sure things are written well.

    The number of business e-mails I get that are almost unreadable is amazing - I can't believe we've come to this. Run-on sentences, 1-page paragraphs, poor spelling, etc. It drives me crazy!
     
  11. wordmunger macrumors 603

    wordmunger

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    #11
    I have a pet theory that the reason the "classics" don't really seem the same when you read them onscreen is that they're not formatted in a way that optimizes them for the screen. I think the blog interface is ideally suited for reading online, so I've started an experiment to put Moby Dick online. I've got about 16 chapters done so far; take a look:

    http://wordmunger.com/moby/
     
  12. mouchoir macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    judging by this forum, they're ni terriblle shpe.
     
  13. Mr. Durden macrumors 6502a

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    #13

    Hmmmm. Very interesting. You may be on to something there. I think another factor is the ability to actually hold and feel the book while your reading it.

    WIERDO ALERT: For example, I think that when a person creates something like a novel or film, a little piece of their spirit or sould, gets attached to it. So when you actually hold it, your more in touch with it. It seems to have more impact that way. I'm not really explaining this the way I should... sorry. A better example is when you go to a museum and see something that really interests you, like a 500,000 year old fossil, dont you really wish you could touch it?
     
  14. zelmo macrumors 603

    zelmo

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    #14
    This kind of shorthand, when it appears outside the chatrooms and IM messages, irritates me, too. TBS (that being said :) ), I'm not sure this is a bad thing, just another stage in the evolution of language. After all, language exists to permit the effective communication of thoughts and information.
    The only real difference between AFAIK and "as far as I know" is that one is quicker to write than the other, correct? In order to accurately use the shorthand version, you still have to know what it means. My friends and I used "words" like awol and fubar long before the internet chat room was around.

    You and I may lament the passing of an era when writing skills were more than an archaic curiosity, but our grandchildren will likely believe it is perfectly normal and acceptable to use this new shorthand in all circumstances.

    Oh, and it's certainly no tragedy that the world is not exposed to my own handwriting. ;)
     
  15. ~Shard~ thread starter macrumors P6

    ~Shard~

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    #15
    I agree with that, and see where you're coming from - it's an effiiciency thing, and why type out a long phrase if you can abreviate it? I, too, have been using acronyms long since the Internet was around, it's just that now it is more prevalent. But in striving to communicate effectively, yes, it serves its purpose.

    See some more of my comments below though, too, which I think are valid as well...
     
  16. ~Shard~ thread starter macrumors P6

    ~Shard~

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    #16
    Great discussion so far, thanks for all your input.

    I understand that society evolves (and in some cases devolves but that's for another discussion) and this is just another one of those things, but I still do see a danger. And no, it’s not going to affect everyone, and it’s not “evil” and will bring on the Apocalypse, but it definitely is going to have a long-term impact in my opinion.

    And yes, of course there are benefits as well to this “Internet Age” in terms of communication. As previous posters have said, there is an efficiency issue to consider – what used to be done on typewriters or longhand can now be done through quick typing skills – 5 memos a day has turned into 50 e-mails a day and has increased productivity. Well, in some cases (that’s a debatable point as well...)

    People are Google-ing for information faster than anyone probably thought possible 10 years ago, and the sheer amount of information out there is staggering – there is a lot more opportunity to learn. Of course, with all this, there are downsides as well, as with everything. And as others have said, we are seeing children or even 20 year olds communicating with the intellect of a 5 year old. Some might call using sentence fragments, Internet shorthand, and the like “efficient”, however I believe an equally viable term is “lazy”.

    And just like everything else, if you don’t use it you lose it. The mind is like any other muscle in your body – it’s needs to be exercised, challenged and stimulated, or else it will grow soft and weak. I have even found this true in myself – I used to be able to fire off complex mathematical calculations in my head, but now it comes a bit slower, since throughout university I relied on my calculator to do everything for me, even to the point where I was adding a series of numbers with it. Efficient? Or Lazy? And it’s aspects such as this which I consider when I look at how the “IM Generation” and the like are evolving.

    When all is said and done, I definitely think there should be some concern out there, at least awareness, even if it just takes form in a parent making the time to read to their kids and encouraging the importance of writing and reading to them as they grow up.

    And lastly, I am by no means slamming or blaming the Internet. That would be silly - the Internet rocks. ;) :cool:

    Keep the comments coming!
     
  17. stridey macrumors 65816

    stridey

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    #17
    I think one of the real problems here is the issue of "correctness." The (d)evolution of writing conventions is comprable to that of grammer. One of my personal pet peeves is the fewer/less issue (in case anybody doesn't know, you have fewer objects, and less of an object. so, fewer cookies, less milk. for more info, look up "less" in dictionary.app). I frequently get upest when people use less for all situations, as has become the norm. However, by most peoples' definitions, I'm not even right anymore: on the radio and in books and newspapers I frequently see the two used synonymously.

    So the qustion is, am I right to try to insist on the "correct" way, or am I clinging to an archaic usage that is meaningless for today's language?
     
  18. emw macrumors G4

    emw

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    #18
    IMHO, the use of computers to do menial tasks for us such as computing long division, making complex photographic manipulation easy for the masses, and enabling more robust information gathering does not mean that we are necessarily lazy.

    It should be making us more efficient - allowing us to bypass time-consuming, but minimally value-adding, activities in favor of truly rewarding pursuits. For example, these enterprising individuals leveraged information available through Google and other databases to create truly useful byproducts. Without the internet, this would not have been possible.

    100s of years ago, books were handwritten. Then along came Gutenberg and now we're mass-producing books. This made information available to the more general public, which must be a good thing. The internet brings it to the next level.

    Unfortunately, more information also requires more thought and self-control - it's even less likely that things you read today are completely truthful or show both sides of the story; you need to weed through a lot of chaff to get to the wheat (as with my 50 e-mails a day reference). But in the end, I'd rather have access to that information easily.

    Another question, are IM acronyms universal, or are they language specific? That is, does IMHO mean anything to a non-english speaking individual? If not, what's the, say, French equivalent? If so, then maybe it's helping bring the world together...
     
  19. emw macrumors G4

    emw

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    #19
    Well, since I'm anal about split infinitives and dangling participles, I think you are correct in insisting on proper usage.

    To me, the use of abbreviations/acronyms is like the creation of a new language, IMglish, if you will. The butchering of the English language, however, is more of an issue for me.
     
  20. superfunkomatic macrumors regular

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    #20
    funny that it's adults that raise this concern. check the literacy rates for adults in US and Canada alone - abysmal. check the literacy rates for kids from high school down - much higher.

    kids have access to more information that is unfortunately provided through the internet and created by semi-literate adults. ;)
     
  21. ham_man macrumors 68020

    ham_man

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    #21
    Being 14, I definately know what all of you are on about. Heck, I IMed somebody not 20 minutes ago about how alot of people on the internet cannot spell worth a lick. Anyhoo, I try to keep up my writing and reading skills by reading just about every magazine (Time, Newsweek *cough, cough*, US News) and paper that I see. Whatever helps, I guess... :rolleyes:
     
  22. zelmo macrumors 603

    zelmo

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    #22
    Where IS the line between being lazy and being efficient drawn? Your calculator analogy is an apt one. I have often chided my daughter for using a calculator to add numbers or do other basic math. Her school allows their usage, even in Basic Algebra, which I have a problem with. People ought to be able to balance a checkbook or review a cash register receipt without relying on a calculator. OTOH, calculators were invented to perform math, so why not use them? The ability to use a calculator is something that must be taught, as our children will need to know how to operate one in many jobs.

    I can remember my great-grandfather telling me how he used to walk to school (five miles through a foot of snow back in the day) when people didn't have cars or buses to cart them everywhere. My grandmother used to scrub the floors and do the wash by hand, not use one of these newfangled machines. Maybe they looked upon our sudden reliance on machines to do our chores as the softening of our physical muscles, much in the same way you and I might look at IM-speak and calculators as a weakening of our mental muscles. Is the simple truth just that we need to get over it? I hope not. I hold these things as valuable still, and am not ready to let them go.

    In 100 years, willl we sit cradled in cocoons, with tubes feeding us and carting our waste away, never having to physically interact with anyone or anything, because we've grown so "effficient?"

    Are we not men? No, we are DEVO!!
     
  23. Tealeaf macrumors newbie

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    #23
    There's nothing wrong with insisting on correct spelling, grammer [sic] and punctuation. Very few people can communicate effectively in written English, so if you can do it, and do it well, then it's to your credit.

    I'm very traditional in my approach to English. I get annoyed by poor spelling and punctuation particularly, and, to a lesser extent, misuse of grammar.

    My particular pet peeves include:

    1. Confusing there, they're and their (usually "there" is used for all three).
    2. Confusing your and you're (usually "your").
    3. Confusing lose and loose (usually "loose" is the confusion of choice).
    4. Confusing its (possessive) and it's (it is).
    5. Sticking apostrophes everywhere (my number one hate). Mac's. PC's. Dog's. Ferrari's. 1970's. '70's. Wa's (seen in an IM conversation once - not my mistake!).
    6. Failing to spell check, especially in topic titles in discussion boards (which always looks particularly bad).
    7. "Text speak". "C u l8r, m8. Macs is da best". It's supposed to save space when writing text messages on your mobile phone, but it takes me longer to work out what this mumbo-jumbo means than it would for you to write it in "normal" English.

    The English language is a beautiful thing. It gave us Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens et al. It would be a shame indeed if it got destroyed in the name of "modernity" and for the sake of speed (and to compensate for the laziness of the average person).
     
  24. feakbeak macrumors 6502a

    feakbeak

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    #24
    I don't believe the internet is contributing to any additional problems with reading or writing within our society. A large segment of the population now use the internet for emails, chatrooms, message boards, blogs and IMs. Therefore, those who use the internet to communicate see the writing skills of many more people than someone who does not use the internet. Before I began to use the internet regularly I mostly just visited with friends and family in person or spoke on the phone. I rarely wrote snail mail to anyone. Collectively, we have a lot more exposure to writing in the internet-era and so it is much more apparent that many have poor writing skills. In short, I don't think people's writing skills have diminished because of the internet, I think the internet has further exposed a problem that has always existed.

    As for worrying about the reading and writing skills of the next generation, I don't believe much has changed. If parents read to their children, encourage them to read and emphasize the value of education their children will turn out just fine for the most part (there are always exceptions). The problem is that few parents place a priority on education in the home and the results are obvious – but parenting is another topic for another thread.
     
  25. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

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    #25
    I rally do thank your write a bout that.
     

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