I’d Rather Read Than Watch

Once upon a time if you wanted to put any content on the Internet, you had to write it out or make a picture of it. Text and basic graphics was all that the computers and net infrastructure could handle, but that was okay. Remember setting up your own personal website? Words, and the thoughts behind them, out there for everyone to see, and it was good. If there were folks who weren’t quite as capable communicating through the written word, well, that was alright, because you could always skim through what they’d written and get the basic gist of what they were trying to say.

Then came blogs. Blogs made it easier to get your message out, to let people know what you were up to. The blog format meant you didn’t have to learn HTML anymore, you just typed your stuff into a box and hit “publish”. Still, it was text, and pictures, and graphics. Totally visual, and totally still good.

Somewhere after that came podcasts. Podcasts were recorded programs that you downloaded off the net, loaded onto your iPod or whatever device or software you used to play them, and then you’d listen to them. Suddenly, those of us who are very visual started feeling left out a bit. Most people are not very talented speakers, and I find poor speakers absolutely torturous to listen to. There’s no skimming, no skipping through to pick out the meat of the communications. You’re stuck, held hostage, at the mercy of every “um” or “uhh” or other aggravating verbal tic. Even when there are no verbal fillers, there’s still the quality of the actual material, and in my mind disordered speaking is much harder to listen to than disordered writing is to read. I can go back and reread something if the message didn’t get through the first time or get clarification if something seems contradictory, but you can’t do that if you’re just listening to someone talk.

Then came the ultimate in anti-reader technology: YouTube. Sure, for a long time, people just posted cute cat videos and videos of people falling down stairs and such. But then someone got the bright idea of pointing a camera at themselves and just talking about something. Just…talking. It’s called vlogging, like blogging but with a v, get it? And it’s horrible (to me). I can’t stand listening to someone droning on while staring at their face. Oh, sure, many of the better vloggers use editing to add some nice transitional graphics, and use camera cuts to improve the static quality of just filming themselves while talking, but all the problems with podcasts apply.

I’ll fully admit that most of the problem is at my end. Videos are enormously popular, and more and more bloggers I follow are at least dipping a toe into the water of podcasts or videos. Hell, I may at some point myself give it a try, although it’s not likely. But I’m a reader. I prefer words on a page. Since I’m a very fast reader, I’ve always thought that part of the problem is that I can read something much faster than someone can read it to me. Even in the work world, I’ve always preferred to get a memo or a report rather than have someone sit across from my desk and tell me about something. And while I understand that good writing is hard for most people and takes them much more time than just speaking, it’s worth it in my opinion for the permanence and the ease of reviewing later on.

I know, I know. Get off my lawn. I’m an Old, and I understand that I’m at the Old stage where the word “newfangled” as a pejorative has actually started to creep into my vocabulary. I’ve learned and kept up with a lot of changes in technology so far, though, and I’m open minded enough to want to keep up with new stuff as it comes along. I guess my limits just come into play when talking about the difference between written and spoken communication. In my opinion, we need to continue to value the written word and not let the ease of hitting the “record” button overtake the magic of the “publish” button.

So, what’s your preference? Written? Spoken? Pantomimed by a troupe of flying monkeys who smoke unfiltered cigarettes while a chorus of sloths play background music on vuvuzelas?

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