by Kelsey Hoff
I was standing in line at the grocery store a couple weeks ago when I heard the lady in front of me say something really weird to the cashier. It went something like “I am such a hot mess right now. http://www.hotmess.com, look it up, that’s me.” I did a sort of double-take because it sounded just like this other phrase: “look up ‘hot mess’ in the dictionary. My picture is right next to it.”
Why is this relevant here on The Bonkness Monster? As a writer, I am supposed to be aware of my surroundings all the time, and soaking in the nuances of things that people say and do. These things affect the way I write as well as the way I read. It particularly got me thinking about the evolution of language, but I realized that more is evolving here than just the language. The technology has obviously evolved, but a website is not exactly the same thing to us as a dictionary is (or used to be) even though some websites are effectively dictionaries. (www.dictionary.com) Therefore, the “dictionary definition” we used to use as a standard has turned into something quite different. Websites are not just references. They are sources of opinions, marketing campaigns, propaganda, and probably worse things too.
This is where I could get into the technicalities of citing sources in media and news articles, but that would be taking this to another level. All I’m saying is that people don’t use dictionaries outside of a classroom anymore; they’re too slow. Websites are fast. You can Google anything on your smart phone in 5 seconds, whereas even locating a dictionary could take hours, even days. (That was supposed to be a joke…) This quickness of reference is compounded by the quickness with which the administrator(s) of the website can update the information available. This is where the whole system is turned into a game of telephone (another outdated cliche).
This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Technology is definitely a blessing–until we create robots that can think independently and take over the world–but I don’t think we’re anywhere near that point (no matter what Apple would like us to think…Siri…) We just have to keep thinking critically and research which sources are reliable, which ones aren’t, and which ones are owned by big business…and stay smarter than the smartphone. And think of better metaphors.