The Dying Of The Light



I watched a television commercial the other day.

Three or four “Real People—Not Actors” were told that they could respond only by using “emojis.”  This is so wrong on so many levels, but I’ve only time to rant and rage about one of them.

Emojis, or “emoticons,” are little pictures for people who 1. Can’t read  2. Can’t write or 3. Think it’s “cute.” They are only another obvious indication that our society continues to “dumb itself down” to its lowest common denominator.  This has been going on far longer than keyboards and cell phones have been with us.  It began decades ago, on our street signs and our elevator buttons and in lots of little ways.  It raises the question: do we require our society to read and write, or do we give them little pictures when they cannot?  Those are two different paths.  One elevates our society and the other demeans it.

I don’t really mind if someone puts a little smile into their communication to me.  But I do get concerned when it appears the little picture begins to overtake the written word.

There’s more to the written language than simply knowing which word to use and how to spell it.  There is the joy of appreciating what a good writer can do when those words are arranged in a way that delights us, or inspires us. No one will ever close a book and say “That author sure knows how to use his smiley faces.”  Or God help us, I hope it never happens. Spelling, grammar and structure are only tools.  A chainsaw is a tool.  I know people who can carve a bear out of a tree trunk using a chainsaw.  And I know people who have cut off their foot with the same tool.  It’s all about knowing how to use the tool.  I don’t want to see a little picture of how the guy feels about bears.  I want to see the bear.   When you know your tools so well that they are an extension of your being, you’re just liable to slip up and inspire someone.

I had a discussion with a young person several years ago about the fact that much of our knowledge is no longer internalized.  I told him, point blank, that the time will come when he won’t know the answer to an important question.  He pulled out his cell phone and said “I’ll have the answer here.”  Sigh.  Maybe he’s right.

I believe that if we don’t use our brains, they’ll become as useless as the tails we probably once had, and they’ll disappear.  I know some people to whom I believe this has already happened.  Will the lack of mental exercise result in earlier onset of dementia for the next generation?  I prefer my madness on a proper schedule, thank you very much.

Maybe I’m old and out of touch.  Maybe most of the world is pleased that our public restrooms have a little picture of a man and a little picture of a woman and we can instantly “identify” as one or the other and use the door we choose.  I am not.  I like to read things.  It gives me a better understanding of my world.  The loss of language is death, and the idea of that loss angers me.  I will not go quietly into that good night.  I will rage, rage against the dying of the light.

7 thoughts on “The Dying Of The Light

  1. It (the trend you mentioned) might have started, or at accelerated, when teachers were told by the “experts” in the field of education that it was not important that kids know facts, but that they simply be able to find the fact or answer. Thus teachers were to become “facilitators ” or “coaches”, and not to think of their calling as one of imparting knowledge. Technology, then, rather than being used as just another tool in learning, became the end to the means.


  2. From a communications student (I are one) perspective, the symbols are indicative of the globalization of internet communications. I don’t speak a foreign language but I get it when a Spanish speaking fellow puts a smiley face as his reaction to one of my comments. The other thing about symbols is their ability to pack so much information into a tiny space. The WWII “Kilroy was here” graphic spoke volumes to soldiers when they entered a new territory, unsure if it had been the scene of previous action or otherwise visited by fellow soldiers. (Don’t get me started on the crap that goes into designing a corporate logo . . . ) The question I have about your argument is wither or not artificial intelligence (smart phones) will end civilization as we know it,or has that already happened?


    1. My good friend SLH, we so seldom disagree. But to “get” what a Spanish-speaking fellow is intending requires an understanding of the Spanish language. If I don’t understand what a Spanish-speaking fellow is saying, I probably would smile politely. That wouldn’t be an emoticon; it’d be an actual emote. Either way, it indicates that, like a box or rocks, the most I can get across is that I have a pulse. And why are you trying to talk with all these Spanish fellows? Hasta la vista, baby. DB


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