Archaic Technology: The Advantages of Pen and Paper

Dec 31, 2012 by

Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom that “[a]lmighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain”. Thomas Jefferson knew very well that what he wrote would be part of the public record far into the future, his legacy. Those before us who had only the “archaic technology”, pen and paper, had a superior advantage over us, time. Time to reason before writing, time to edit to convey thoughts in the most accurate way, and time to reflect on what was written before the postman arrived to complete the process by delivering it to the intended recipient. I would speculate that even Jefferson upon further reflection would refine some of his thoughts or at least explained them better. Because of the rapid ascent of technological advancement in social media we no longer have the built in filtering system of pen and paper technology, and it shows.

While on a website that I frequently scan, I noticed a section devoted to Twitter. Upon selecting one of the tweets I was able to read the writer’s comments and those that participated in the “discussion”. Before I realized it I had access to the thoughts of literally hundreds of people in minutes by simply clicking my magic mouse. I wondered if they realized that what they wrote could be seen by anyone, like me, who knew them and would now have a new and unique perspective into their character. I also wondered if they had forgotten that what they wrote would become part of the public record, their legacy.

There is no time for reflection with the new technology because it is an instantaneous transaction. I write it, I click to send it. The legacy left through “social media”, is one of a community that blurts out anything without thinking, most likely driven by passion and not reason. Is this just a glitch in our understanding of how to use the new technology properly, or is it a statement of the true nature of the community? I wonder if Thomas Jefferson were alive today would he edit these words, “[t]o preserve the freedom of the human mind then and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement“. Letter to William Green Mumford, June 18, 1799


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