I Like Words

I gave a talk on Wednesday night about small towns and the economic changes affecting them. I was in the small town where one of my seven recent essays was based. I had a small crowd of mostly friends show up.

I mentioned a recent dust up that occurred on Facebook on “You Know You’re From Lisbon If….”

That’s the problem with most of the communication on social media sites. It’s always, “I like __________ and you should too. Oh, you don’t? Well, you suck.” I exaggerate slightly, but the frame of Facebook is fairly narrow and all too often, binary.

It’s pretty clear reading through most of the back and forth that takes place on this popular social media platform that people’s source for information and news is fragmented at best.

Long gone are the days when most of the people in a given geographic location received their news from a local newspaper. In Lisbon and Lisbon Fallls, the local paper was run by Norm Fournier. Before him, it was John Gould.

An excellent source for words.

An excellent source of words.

If you look at most of the updates and comments on a site like Facebook, they’re somewhere in the range of 25 to 40 words—not even the length of a credible newspaper or magazine lede. Most feature articles in the newspaper are 750 to 1,000 words. Most of my blog posts are similar in length. Long-form narrative journalism articles, the kind found in magazines like The New Yorker can run 10,000+.

Longer isn’t always better, but nuance takes more than 140 characters, 25 to 40 words, and often, a lot more words than a short news feature allows.

Spending time crafting combinations of them to tell a story takes work, some skill, and it’s something that I think still matters.

I’m happy that others think it’s important, also.

5 thoughts on “I Like Words

  1. I like this post. As I read it, three words come to mind: entertainment, atomization, and monetization. Does the internet really democratize ideas? Or does it atomize them into profitable entertainment for their creators?

    Eh…critical thinking has never been the objective. Send in the clowns!

  2. This is interesting–apparently (social) media multitasking shrinks our brains and makes us dumber. Lends new meaning to “dumbing down,” not to mention, offering an explanation to the state of American’s ability to think critically and parse complex information.

  3. I might also add that productivity in many work settings suffers similarly for at least 2 reasons. First, the shiny new technologies are incorporated into the work life and so it’s more difficult to focus on work. Messaging devices allow for constant interruption. Add on to this, employee use of social media via personal devices. The latter is not limited to white-collar settings, either. How many times have you seen the driver of a big box truck hauling a load of something dangerous, texting and checking their i-phone? Or a traffic controller standing with a stop sign in the right hand and their device in the left. No one is able to focus and productivity suffers all around. The subtle danger of it all is discouraging.

    • @JAB Your points are all good ones. The truck driver, on the phone or texting, is always a concern–it doesn’t take much to lose control of a big rig.

      What I’ve been noticing, as I pass through Lisbon Falls on 196 is how many students I see walking down the road, looking at their screens, interacting with a device, rather than another human being.

  4. Some Scotsman whose name escapes me complained about the horrors of the bicycle. After all, one goes by so fast one can hardly even notice what’s all around him, and even walking it’s all too easy to miss everything in the natural world besides one’s own feet.

    When I first arrived in Italy, I went to see an old Longobardi castle on a hill not far away. As we ascended, we encountered an old Italian gentleman who was gathering wild asparagus. I never saw a one, but as we walked slowly, and talked even more slowly, he would suddenly reach into the grasses on the hill beside us and snatch out another asparagus. He had a whole handful by the time we left him.

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