I’ll admit it. I’m a Facebook junkie. I usually have the site up and running in my browser as I’m working, and I check it pretty regularly on breaks. Although I don’t pay too much heed to the seemingly endless rope of changes Facebook initiates, I do pay attention to my friends’ statuses on the news feed.
Facebook is clearly social networking royalty, with even businesses having their own accounts. But from the content of the statuses I read every day, I see Facebook as much more than a social networking tool. It’s a daily, written journal through which people talk about their thoughts. Their hurts. Their dreams, frustrations and accomplishments.
Facebook has the potential to improve writing, although it can’t necessarily guarantee a particular level of improvement. For example, status messages are limited to a particular number of characters, so the site encourages users to get to the point and write succinctly. Real time chat pushes users to respond in a timely way, all the while getting users to consider the immediate connotations their words might have in the absence of body and vocal expressions. Even creating picture captions can develop writing skills, because users have to think critically about whether their captions accurately get the meaning and feeling of the picture across. Some people even correct their own grammar and spelling in posted status messages and comments to show they understand their mistakes.
I don’t expect or want Facebook to become a substitute for a good grammar or writing course, but the site is an example of how the right technology and ideas can promote massive amounts of writing in a platform. Coupled with such amazing social power, these types of sites have the potential not only to promote the writing world, but to change that world altogether.