Social Media Isn't Bad Afterall?

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In Clive Thompson's book, Smarter than you think: How technology is changing our minds for the better, he talks about how the internet is actually encouraging people to write more and not just keep their thoughts bundled up inside. Thompson studied at the University of Toronto, majoring in Political Science and English and earning is degree in 1992. He has a long list of accolades including writing for Canada's Report on Business magazine, This Magazine, Shift magazine, The New York Times, and many more. Thompson has earned his credibility through his degrees as well as his informative yet interesting writing style. Thompson was inspired to write this book after, like many others, he became skeptical of how the internet was impacting the new generation. He believed that this would eventually lead to our inevitable downfall as a society and was terrified by this idea. However over the next couple decades he realized that this was an entirely wrong idea, and that in fact the amount of new ways for people to express themselves on a global level was fantastic. This specific chapter however is focused on encouraging people to start reading and writing on a regular basis.

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Thompson’s main point of argument in this chapter is that the amount of readers and writers since the invention of the internet has absolutely skyrocketed. This in turn has led to an overall greater amount of knowledge in our society. This is because of the fact that the spread of knowledge between people has become as simple as clicking a button on your smartphone or computer. Thompsons main goal of this specific chapter is to change the way that people think about the internet. He does so by presenting 5 claims. The two most important of these being the fact that the amount of writing put out in a single day is equal to about 35 million books, and the second being that writing for an audience helps one clearly clarify what they are trying to say and allows for feedback to be given.

Thompson starts his argument by stating that the amount of writing each person puts out now in comparison to before the internet was a thing is outstanding. There are an estimated 3.6 trillion words written each day on various sites, however there is most likely more due to the fact that calculating this overall number accurately is near impossible. This alone proves Thompson's theory that the internet has led to more people actively writing despite the content of which is being produced, which is Thompson's main claim.

Thompsons main claim also includes the fact that the amount of writing done today in comparison to before the internet is exponentially greater, he states “Before the Internet came along, most people rarely wrote anything at all for pleasure or intellectual satisfaction after graduating.. from high school or college”. This is a very true statement, before the internet after college or high school most jobs required very little writing, and a majority of people would never think to write for fun or pleasure. Now however people write about everything in their lives, such as what they thought of a movie, how their day went, etc. All in all this broadens Thompson’s argument by giving a more in depth argument. Thompson also adds to his claim by talking about how during the postal age there was a very small amount of letters being written and sent per person. “As the historian David Henkin notes in The Postal Age, the per capita volume of letters in the United States in 1860 was only 5.15 per year”. This is crazy to think about, nowadays the normal person on average probably sends upward of 20 texts or emails in any given day. However this was a massive change and opened the gates to new means of communication, so it shouldn't go unrecognized.

Thompson continues to put this into perspective by sharing a story about his seventy-seven year old mother. He explains that she's a very well read person who received a great education. She reads books and magazines on a regular basis and is a very smart woman. However she uses the internet very minimally if at all to express herself, Facebook, email, threads, etc. So in turn she does almost no writing. “So I asked her how often in the last year she'd written some- thing of at least a paragraph in length. She laughed. Oh, never! she said. I sign my name on checks or make lists-that's about it.”. This just shows how much of impact social media and email really has on how much people write. This proves that the overall use of the internet, and having accounts on all of these platforms directly affects how much a person will write in their lifetime no matter how well read you are.

Typically the school system these days focuses on students being great readers and not great writers. The same goes for parents, all they care about is knowing that their children can read and after that writing doesn't really matter. Before the internet this was very valid way of doing things. The probability of someone publishing a piece of writing before the internet was very small, but now people put their writing out for people to see many times a day. This just further proves the point that students need to be taught correct writing skills from an early age, just like reading.

Thompson makes a great case for why the internet is benefiting our society. He used compelling facts and arguments that enticed the reader. His writing style is very interesting and keeps the reader wanting to continue on. He also uses stories and arguments from his own life to help the reader better understand and relate to him. For example most people have a grandparent or relative who never uses the internet and because of this rarely writes but often reads. This helps the reader feel more in touch with the writer and in turn helps his argument.

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