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When Technology Meets Language: Pitfalls in the Age of Online Communication


Thanks to technology there is rarely a time when we found ourselves disconnected from the larger world, and while this has been a great addition to our lives it has at the same time served as a kind of curse. We live through what others express through online, whether that be via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any one of the technological means at our disposal. However, we do not all face reality in the same way.

In the recent Prince Harry / Obama interview, the following was said:

“One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.”

Under these ideas, we must be aware that our approach to reality is not equal to that of any person in the world, and what may be normal for us may be deemed offensive by others. This is due to several factors: the first one is the context; where and when we are living, as well as how that reality affects and involves us. The second one is language; how to tell someone something that may sound wrong when read rather than spoken. The tone we use to express some ideas makes it sound a little sweeter in spoken conversation but when the same sentiment is read as text, it can oftentimes sound hard. The third and most important thing is the ideology; what can I read in the subtext of the written words? What is behind what appears on the screen? Who is reading my content and what may that person think of me? Many times we forget this and write without thinking, caught up in the passion of the moment.

In the aforementioned interview with Obama, one notable item of discussion was this technology, more specifically how interaction through social networks may have the potential to damage our society. Obama said: “The question has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn't lead to a Balkanization of society and allows ways of finding common ground.”

In this sense, technology is not the culprit; we are the ones who put a burden on the words and that burden must be taken, as the former president Obama, says to a common place. We must learn to speak a universal language on the Internet, a language that has nothing to do with context but with us as human beings. We must discover the common points that allow us to achieve an informed, effective, and above all useful interaction. We must sit down at some point and consider, what does an Englishman in Piccadilly Circus have in common with a Peruvian on Larco Avenue? It is important to leave the “Me” in this language and be able to realise how important language is to express ourselves to everyone. The big problem today is well known: first I write and then I think; however by the time any thinking occurs the message has already reached the recipient. These misused words are the beginning of fights, conflicts and in the worst cases, wars. This is the reason we need to be clear about the following: the problem is not technology, the problem is the way we use this technology.


Guest Post by Luis Del Prado

Luis is a scriptwriter, teacher and journalist for newspapers and magazines in Lima.

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When Technology Meets Language: Pitfalls in the Age of Online Communication Reviewed by Sam Bonson on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 Rating: 5
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