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Call Me Old-Fashioned But... Counting ... speech?

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Opinion | October 25th, 2010

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
In the spirit of the season, on that special day when we traditionally consume copious amounts of turkey (well, tofurky for us vegans), I wanted to publicly display my gratitude ... in other words, "give thanks." As my friends and family are scattered near and far, it seemed to me that the most obvious way to reach such a dispersed group would be by taking advantage of one of the ever-popular social networking sites, like Facebook.

So there I was, composing an epic speech acknowledging that I was appreciative of everything from my man to my cats to the food in my fridge. Just as I went to post it as my status, a nasty little pop-up window appeared, informing me that apparently I'm too thankful as I had overshot the character count by some hundred words. Left with no choice, I revised and edited, rephrased and rewrote. By the time I was finally able to post my acclamation, I worried it had lost its essence and further that people would begin to believe that I was ill-acquainted with the laws of syntax and how they apply to the English language. I had to remove all apostrophes and other proper grammatical markers, as well as use the digital form for all numeric references even if they were below the number 10 just to make it fit.

Luckily, my loved ones understood — they've always known me to be a verbose creature — but this whole ordeal got me ruminating and I came to the following conclusion (as posted on my wall directly below my FB status, and yes, I'm quoting myself): "I suppose it's a rather sad reflection on modern society if most people CAN compile their complex thoughts into such restrictive word limits OR that further most people WON'T devote time to reading something that exceeds said word limits."

Now the ironic part about my conception of this conviction is that throughout my high school academic career, anytime I could get my hands on CliffsNotes instead of actually delving into real literature, I would jump on the opportunity. The only exceptions to this rule were for the works of my lovers from beyond the grave, Billy S. and the man who told tales of all-telling hearts. All of this changed, however, when I hit college.

Perhaps it was a lack of maturity or just a god-awful selection of texts (Death of a Salesman, anyone?!) or a combination of the two, but I truly didn't begin to appreciate the written word as a "page turner" until I embarked on my six-year post-secondary stint. But my love for books didn't originate as a consequence of crime fiction, romances or poetry. No, it was the textbook, specifically those of the social science variety, and later the autobiography that made me rethink my firmly established hatred of literary scholarship.

So why am I telling you this? Well, for starters, it seems to me that it is a rare person indeed who spends their evenings simply cuddled up with good books anymore. Oh, we can devote countless hours of watching reality TV shows or worse, viral videos, but to appreciate literature or transcribed life stories, well, clearly that's not as worthy of a time investment.

Secondly, even when we read, because we have become so ingrained with a "live fast" mentality AND because so much of the information that we now access is electronic in nature, we tend to skim over a lot of necessary detail that results in frequent miscommunications. I'm sure many of you have been in a texting war with someone due to misinterpretation of what was being expressed.

While it's just speculation at the moment, I recently heard that physical book publishing is increasingly going out of style because of the upsurge of handheld device ownership and Internet usage in the classroom. In its place, it's been suggested that the books of the future will be purely electronic in nature, complete with hypertext systems that allow for easy navigation from section to section.

I don't know about you, but staring at a computer screen for hours on end makes me dizzy. Further, I think it's a fair statement to suggest that intangible works of art (whether MP3s separated from their albums and their artwork or jpeg renderings of da Vinci's finest) aren't as valued. Does this mean that the future of Romeo and Juliet is looking even grimmer? I certainly hope not!

The truth of the matter is this: you read more, and you read more deeply when you have to caress a book's physicality, just like you appreciate a marvel of nature more in person than in history books. For your own sake, as well as the sake of the amazing array of fine literature and philosophical thought we've developed throughout the ages, learn to appreciate the art of reading, and, no, 140- character tweets don't count.
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