Social Media is Not the Jazz Age: It’s the 60s

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In June, my family and I took the ferry to Governor’s Island. We’d never visited this small island in the New York bay, and we wanted to take advantage of nice weather and bike rentals to explore it.

On the ferry, we suddenly felt transported into another decade. Dapper men with handlebar mustaches, straw hats and bow ties were escorting pearled ladies with hats and gloves. Parasols abounded. Flappers with bobbed hair and short fringed dresses pursed their darkened lips while surveying the modern-day crowd with disapproval.

And we deserved it, I think. I looked around at the rest of us, those not aware that the Jazz Age Lawn Party started at noon on the island. We looked god awful. Faded T-shirts, gym shorts, women make-up free.

It made me feel sad, and it made me miss a time that I’d never really experienced, when people actually dressed up for a weekend outing.

My grandmother was a child of the 1920s era, and she never lost a bit of decorum, insisting on dressing in her Sunday best even at casual weekend gatherings. Unfortunately, I was a child of the 70s. So as a teenager, I rebelled against the formal dress code. Dismissed it. Donned the ripped jeans and the concert T-shirt. I also thought fashion was shallow and below me. I believed in deeper things, stuff that no matter how you dressed it, it demanded respect and thoughtful consideration.

I eschewed the dress code, but I never let down my guard on good writing. Over the years, I did come to appreciate both the art of fashion and the value (and the return) of dressing well. But slipping my writing into a pair of blue jeans never held much appeal to me.

Social media is the 60s counterculture of our era. There is, I think, a deliberate disregard for the finer points of good writing, good spelling, and good grammar.

We’re all too familiar with SMS lingo: “R U @ home?” I understand that all of our text messages can’t be written with perfect grammar (although if you text me, I will reply in full sentences, with words spelled correctly and commas in all the right places). I get it, I do.

But, in all other communications, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for perfection. We need more decorum in our emails, our blog posts, even our Facebook status updates.

Because even if we think the bar is set lower and our colleagues expect imperfection in electronic communications,  a status update riddled with spelling errors (using their for there, for example) creates an insidious impression on your reader.

Whether you’re a business or an individual, people form prejudicial attitudes about you with every word you write. If you want to create a positive reputation, remember that words count. So dress them up – every day of the week.

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