OMG. An English teach finds some positives from social networking. By Andrew Simmons, writing in The Atlantic.
However, while Facebook and Twitter have eroded writing conventions among my students, they have not killed the most important ingredients in personal writing: self-reflection and emotional honesty. For younger high school boys particularly, social networking has actually improved writing – not the product or the process, but the sensitivity and inward focus required to even begin to produce a draft that will eventually be worth editing.
High school is cruel to all genders, an equal-opportunity destroyer of spirit and self-esteem. I'm focusing on boys because I've seen the phenomenon play out more intensely with them. Also, I was a boy once, and so I understand them better than I understand girls.
When I was beginning high school in 1994 boys knew not to reveal weakness and insecurity. Girls didn't seem to like guys who vocalized vulnerability. Athletes usually projected stereotypically masculine traits: along with imposing physical size, aggressive, even belligerent confidence, an easy stance, gait, and casual presence, the signs of being comfortable in their own skins. Even the scrawniest punk guitarists wore hoodies like armor and possessed a prickly toughness seasoned by the experience of having been bullied in middle school. The climate demanded stoicism, cool detachment as the default attitude for boys trying not to lose social standing. Young male attitudes were, as they still are, shaped by music and other forms of pop culture. Mainstream mid-90s rappers had cold-blooded personas. Even Kurt Cobain mumbled through interviews, only opening up in cathartic song, where the rawest admissions could be obtuse and readily cloaked in distortion. Everyone agonized over problems—height, acne, academic ability, body size, a lack of attention from girls, parents splitting up, sick grandparents, needy siblings, general alienation—but no one wanted to talk about them much. At age 14, I was small, smart, and artistic. I wrote well, but the prospect of writing anything that would permit even a teacher to know what I really thought terrified me. Spilling my guts in a writers' workshop with my classmates would have been social suicide.