Salon recently interviewed Dennis Baron, a professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Baron’s new book “A Better Pencil” aims to put Facebook, Google, and texting into a historical context in order to show that social media isn’t ruining the world. The idea is that as communication evolves, there’s always fear that the new tools are irreversibly harming the way we interact. Below are complaints that surfaced in response to past communication strategies:
Written Word: Plato warned that writing things down causes people to lose the ability to remember. He also complained that the written words are not interactive – rather, they are shadows of the things that they represent.
Telegraph: Thoreau objected arguing that even though it speeds things up, people won’t have anything to say to each other.
Telephone: Samuel Morse (inventor of the telegraph) complaining that nothing important will ever be done by telephone because there’s no way to preserve/record the conversation.
Typewriters: Critics complained that the keys made writing too mechanical and distanced writers from their work. They argued that writers who continued to use a pen and pencil would be more directly connected with the page.