Social media muddles/distorts/ruins young minds, we are told. I’m sure to some extent this is true. But, ever keen not to turn into the kind of what-is-the-world-coming-to old fart I don’t want to be, I see positives. Connectivity, one would hope, is generally a good thing, be it virtual or physical. What I really like about it all, though, is that the written word is now more important, for teenagers especially, than it has been in my lifetime. When I was a kid in the last century, I rarely wrote down anything outside school. I kept a daily diary for about a week, wrote the odd letter or postcard, and that was that.

I almost never communicated in writing with any of my friends, many of whom I started school with in 1971 and am privileged still to be close to. For the first 20 years of our friendship, I don’t think the five of us exchanged more than a dozen letters. In the past 20 years, however, via phones and computers, we have written tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of words on hundreds of subjects, many of them personal and intimate. We’ve all had to learn, usually through trial and error, the craft of writing, considering the meaning and nuance of every word. And we’ve had to learn concision. Yes, these means of communication might be reductive, but all these words surely add up to a lot more than nothing.

So for every pouting, selfie-sharing, influencer-influencee teenager getting on your wick, let’s try to consider that they are having to be wordsmiths in a way that people of my generation never were.


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