“We’ll let our supporters know about this issue with an email blast, and we’ll follow up by pushing the news out across all our social streams.” This is how people talk now.
We once mailed letters to the fellow members of our organization, or our political group, or whatever. Now we issue “blasts.” We once shared curious or important news with our peers. Now we “push it out.” We once had cherished sources for our information diets. Now we’ve got “streams.”
When all these new phrases come together in a single sentence, we become ugly.
How we speak reveals to a degree how we think, and I think there’s little attractive about a person who treats his members or friends as people to “blast” with something. We sometimes blast prisoners with cold showers from a hose. We would never “blast” our friends. Yet we speak about them as if we would, and as if we’d be doing them a favor.
A truly great gift, whether a bit of news or just an anecdote or joke, isn’t “pushed out.” It’s shared, or revealed, or given one-on-one. Can we imagine a news anchor speaking cavalierly about “pushing out” the news about the death of some boy in the city that day? Nothing worth sharing should be “pushed out,” as if the audience is a conglomeration of laborers in a sweatshop assembly line.
We have libraries, curate information, peer review research, and archive our files all because we’re dealing with real things. The Library of Congress would be nearly worthless (as would have the Library at Alexandria for that matter) if it served as a “stream” rather than a library. No one leaves important things in “streams.” We remove them from streams and put them into narratives and stories that have coherence and can shape our lives. The entire point of journalism is to rescue disconnected facts from the ether and illuminate them in the light of a sensible narrative that moves the reader to comprehension. Moses, of all people, was saved from a stream.
In our new communications spaces people talk in this mutilated kind of language. We need humane words. We need to be human—to correspond with our members, to share great developments, and to think about our new media presence not as a stream, but as a home.
Or we can keep blasting each other right up until the moment we’re so desensitized that we decide that none of it matters.