Speed and permanence of communication

I continue to be surprised by the lack of care given to regular, standard communication and interaction between people, especially in this day and age. Rather than being right, communication now appears all about who is the fastest, the first on the ball rather than the best or the most accurate. And while this trend is noticeable among journalists, everyday people in both their private lives and business are exhibiting these traits more and more. And that is becoming harmful to them.

Communication, once issued, no longer degrades overtime

While the speed of communication has increased, communication has grown more permanent as well. I still remember a time where the most formal of communications, a letter, slowly degraded over time. This is no longer the case. Any expression you as a person or a company care to make over the internet will still be available long after you have forgotten about it.

With the advent of the internet and its myriad of tools we now have a system, a medium, an environment that both pushes us to communicate more and more frequently. That same system ensures whatever our stream of consciousness coughs up at that moment remains permanently available. This is not necessarily a good combination.

Jersey Shore, squared

A certain resistance to immediately express oneself and an intuition to check facts and to eliminate undue emotions from documents is not a bad thing. Such a reaction is however sadly absent from a lot of information put out there today. Don’t get me wrong, emotion has its place in writing, and certainly on the internet. However, the internet should not be Jersey Shore, squared. Of course I have the ability to turn it off, to avoid listening to it. But it is not about that, or not just about that. It is mainly about the permanence and the evolving maturity of the people putting their “stuff” out there. Someday, usually when it is least convenient, other people, potentially employers or clients, will confront you with prior positions, with prior words, so it pays to be careful about what you express how and in which context.

Crossing over into the real world

What worries me even more is a behavioral cross-over to the more traditional mediums or even to environments you trust are neutral and objective. I recently read part of a report by what is supposed to be an objective consultant where I was seriously wondering whether there was any underlying work done at all, or whether the authors felt they could get away with just their opinion. They appear to act more as sensational journalist than as responsible auditors of stated but not verified fact. Again, this scares me more because just because of the medium used, there is an assumption of quality. In case you are familiar with a situation, it is easy to identify the errors in a publicly available report … but that report remains, while you may forget or be forgotten . So all you can really do is document your position, your – ideally well supported – point of view. Because that will remain as well.

A plea for increased attention to (professional) care

All this is a plea for an increased attention to due (professional) care in what we write and how we write it, in what we leave behind. Not just because of liabilities, not just because it may well come back to bite us, but because of an increased awareness that more than ever before, what we write remains longer than ever before, and may continue to impact us and other people long after we have written it.

The availability of means to express ourselves should be considered more as a threat than as an opportunity as long as we have not correctly figured out their place And how to best use them. And let’s remove irrelevant emotion from the mix. After all, to paraphrase Jersey Shore, we are not Guidos.