It seems to me that if you’re under the age of twenty and are not the owner of a Facebook account, you are indeed a questionable teenager. With more than 800 million active users, to break away from this mystical cyberworld is certainly to buck a trend. I am no exception; not a day passes in which I do not scrawl through the seemingly infinite news feed, tutting at minor grammatical errors. Keeping up with what flavour yoghurt your friend just ate, or the location of their afternoon’s kite flying, or the latest gloriously witty “awkward moment” scenario is all well and good, but my concern is that my generation is using this condensed form of reality as a sort of shield, a way to avoid social confrontations and actual speech, feeling and consequence; a kind of “get out”.
Call me an old romantic, but I am very much a fan of letter writing (not business, personal ones), communication of emotion and feeling through song (the best are always one voice and a piano/guitar) and talking things out with a cuppa. I suppose what appeals to me with letters is the intimacy; the writer’s hand onced traced the lines you read, and the pen warmed by their grasp. There’s thought, crossings out that are still just legible, which for me gives a sort of insight into their thoughts while writing. Perhaps a section hurried, rendering the handwriting slightly spidery as an idea surfaced and yearned to be expressed. Conversing online lacks these personal touches which are human. Touch backspace, a thought is gone, lost. The font is uniform; it cannot convey impulse, or passion, or even hesitation. The only way to lay down your feelings is with a smiley face. Or a winkey face, and so on. Perhaps my overly romanticized view is naive; it’s outrageous to think you can understand someone by their handwriting. In fact, it’s rather Holmesian. But when a person is concealed behind a screen and a keyboard, surely it’s easier not to feel? What consequences are there? There is no need for sincerity, or self-awareness. How did the other interpret what you said? You’ll never know the truth: you cannot see their face. Which is why we’d do well to limit our Internet conversations to “Were we set any homework today, oh classmate of mine?”