The demonization of social media

Is digital getting a bad rap?

Is greater connectivity a blessing or curse? Haven for bad grammar and ridiculous acronyms or outlet for synthesizing thoughts into neat packages? As more of us post, text and tweet, often on tiny screens, we often forgo formality or even full words. And that made us wonder if this new way of communicating affects writing—especially in the classroom.

We asked Sac State’s Molly Dugan, a professor of journalism, and Timothy Howard, a professor of public relations, to give us their takes on whether emailing, texting and chatting have contributed to making students’ writing better or worse.

Professor Timothy HowardTimothy Howard: “There has been a decline in the quality of writing in general over the past 20-25 years. Initially, television was thought to be a major contributor to that decline, but now we can add texting, email and social media to the list of factors.

Spelling, grammar, word usage, word variety, syntax, development of meaty ideas—all have suffered. Subject-verb agreement, correct tense, how to convey a process through writing, singular vs. plural are the kinds of problems I see. Sentence construction is often awkward, and, oddly enough, wordy.”

Professor Molly DuganMolly Dugan:  “I know that many teachers complain about the effect of texting/social media on student writing, but I don’t see a connection with my students. All of my writing classes are upper-division, and by this time, I think students know better than to write LOL or LMAO in an essay or article.

I do see students struggle with correct grammar and spelling, but no more than I did when I started seven years ago. Our students’ backgrounds vary widely. Our job is to both challenge those who are already at a high level and bring up those who are struggling.”