Just what are we doing here…

July 6, 2014
Just what are we doing here?

… in blogs,  on webforums,  … on facebook or twitterr?

Have you considered that writing is “cognitively unnatural”? (Steven Pinker)    “For almost all human existence, nobody wrote anything; even after that, for millennia, only a tiny elite did so. And it remains an odd way to communicate. You can’t see your readers’ facial expressions. They can’t ask for clarification. Often, you don’t know who they are, or how much they know. How to make up for all this?” (O. Burkeman)

Have you considered that maybe what you are doing … is psychology:  “a way that one mind can cause ideas to happen in another mind”. (Pinker)

Continuing to cherry-pick from other fields, consider insights from language scholars Mark Turner and Francis-Noël Thomas, on “joint attention”.   According to them:  “Writing is a modern twist on an ancient, species-wide behaviour: drawing someone else’s attention to something visible. Imagine stopping during a hike to point out a distant church to your hiking companion:   look,   over there,   in the gap between those trees – that patch of yellow stone?   Now can you see the spire? ”

Crystallized:  “When you write,” Pinker says, “you should pretend that you, the writer, see something in the world that’s interesting, and that you’re directing the attention of your reader to that thing.”

… Is this why most people’s FB posts are almost all pictures,   and only a rare few dare present their own text – daring to write whole paragraphs,  with few or no images? **

… Is this FB quirk caused by the audience?
… Are pictures/photos the tool of a writer who has not yet learned to create wondrous images of the mind?

… What are we to make of all the misunderstandings over web-forum posts that almost exclusively use text?

Are these too the fault of an audience of  individuals who actively choose the inability to read more than a sentence or two versus exercising their minds and attention-spans?  … an audience of group-thinkers who automatically revile and complain about “overly long posts” ?

or … is it again, the inability of less-than-mature writers to create enticing, tasty pictures of the mind?




Sagrada Familia-2014-001







… steve

Sources:  The Edge 7/6/14  and The Guardian 6/28/14 http://edge.org/

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Feel free to copy while giving proper attribution: YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan.
© Steven M. Fry
Read-on MacDuff . . .


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10 Responses to Just what are we doing here…

  1. norm says:

    A tangent: You write because you want to serve, to give something back. a gift to your readers for the gifts you were blessed with. Just the way I see it, Steve.

    • yucalandia says:


      hadn’t thought of that one. SPOT ON!, Norm (as usual).
      You added a good fresh category to the list of people who post/blog/tweet.

  2. Joanne says:

    FB is fast food. Hence pictures and short sentences. It’s not wrong, it fits what it is meant to do. If you want to get into something meaty, you look for something longer and more thoughtful, not just a quick bite. FB is a way to reach a lot of people with a tidbit and maybe lead them to a place where they can find more.

  3. MeridaGOround says:

    Good topic, Steve.

    Like most of us, I got my start in art as a finger painter. But art never really captivated me until I took a photo course in high school. By then I knew I didn’t have the patience for drawing and painting. I wanted to illustrate my thoughts about life, but thoughts came too quickly. Eventually I realized that words might be necessary to merge images with cogitations. To paraphrase: I blog, therefore I am(?). Well, I do think there is significance in the power of story, as observed here: http://meridagoround.com/?p=2079

  4. Oh, my. What interesting questions you raise. I agree with Joanne who says Facebook is fast food. I do post y blogs there but few of y “friends” read it. The ones who subscribe do.
    You have given e a few new things to think about. Thanks.

  5. Hana says:

    As a retired US college level English teacher, it’s because most young people can neither write or spell. Graffiti is as good as it gets … and laziness is a factor.

  6. Biill Ingersoll says:

    The problem is not that people don’t want to write. They can’t write because they have little to say that is organized thought. They can’t write because they never learned to actually think in any depth about much of anything. Einstein was once asked “What is wrong with people?” He thought for a moment and replied “They just don’t think”. It is convenient and superbly lazy to send sound bite FB texts thinking that one is communicating something of interest.

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Bill,
      Blending your insights and Hana’s (the English prof), with my university chemistry teaching experiences (grading lab reports for over 2,300 students back in the ’80’s), I’d have to say that at least 3/4 of university students I encountered didn’t have much to say and used poor tools to say what little they did want to express. The only fellow I’ve known who wrote “OK” from 7’th grade on through adulthood, exclusively used short muscular sentences, presented in easily-followed logical order. His communication skills seem to be more a product of his mental creative and organizational skills than in the style or mechanics of his writing.

      Pointing to: Is writing well a gift, or is it the product of a lot a hard years of effort? Do “the gift” aspects come through a basic ability to think (creatively?) and a further abilities to corral, organize, and polish our thoughts?

      When considering those things, I still return to the original premises of the article: Writing is a peculiar, psychological exercise – done well when we actively create sequences of interesting “thought pictures” in another person’s mind, skillfully guiding them to some tasty bit.

  7. kristen says:

    hello, my name is kristen. i have been online looking for 2 friends of mine, emily and ryan (newie). they should be in the merida/yucatan area looking for me too. if you’ve heard of anything at all or know of someone who meets a lot of people passing through, please drop me a line and let me know…
    anything at all would help.
    thanks so much for your time,

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