Saturday, January 6, 2024

The End of Functional Literacy

I often wonder if the replacement of reading with scrolling over the years is leading to the decline and devaluation of quality written communications.

Is the shift to communicating with and consuming bite-sized tidbits such as texts, IMs, and social media posts leading to a loss of the ability to textually articulate or comprehend meaningful concepts?

Not to mention, reading makes one a better writer and communicator, but it seems to be declining in popularity; exchanged for social media, videos, etc.

As a lifelong bibliophile, I'll never give up my reading habit. It's also led to me becoming quite the writer; both in my personal time, and for professional tasks.

My love for reading was also most likely behind my English Honors recommend from the Language Arts Chair when I returned to college in my early 30's (where I attended with Aaron Rodgers, who would go on to be a famous NFL quarterback).

In my personal time, in addition to writing in digital form as a cathartic activity, I still put pen to paper. I even have leather bound journals containing deckle edge paper where I still use nib fountain pens and write in cursive.

But, written communication seems to be no longer appreciated.

In the professional realm, it's now viewed with disdain when you request someone to articulate something textually. Likewise, if you provide a well written communication the response often demonstrates that it was not read or comprehended, or the reader doesn't feel comfortable articulating a response, and it moves on to the inevitable "can we schedule a quick meeting?"

This is quite the contrast from where early in my career I was often regularly thanked and commended for taking the time to explain complex concepts textually where management and/or coworkers could read it on their own schedule.

In the personal space, a response to a written communication generally consists of a reaction to something the reader cherry-picked while glancing through that they find as a point of contention or have taken offense to. Of course, the content of the rest of the communication is rarely, if ever, mentioned as if it was only scanned for something to feel slighted by.

The lack of functional literacy in our society is downright disheartening to me. The replacement of the well thought out written communications of "my time" with the "fit within the character limit" regurgitations or "quick meetings" is just an indicator of how lazy and preoccupied society has become. Sadly, with the exception of EMP induced post-apocalyptic scenarios, I don't see us returning to quality written communications.

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