There’s this famous notion known as infinite monkey theorem.
It posits that if we put enough monkeys in a room with a typewriter they’d eventually produce Shakespeare. Thanks to Twitter, we know this is not the case.
Let’s take a big step back though.
About fifteen years ago, technology went on a blind date with the general public. They really hit it off. The GP loved to talk, and technology loved to listen, so when they mated they produced what we currently know as blogs. At first these blogs were innocuous enough, cute baby Internet offspring chronicling their day-to-day, sharing blurbs and bits about their motherboard. However as tools emerged that made the online publishing process accessible to a much larger, less proficient populace, blogs started mating with other blogs, which was horrific because, well, incest. Some blog-on-blog progenies had birth defects: typos, errors in coding, misinformation. Others still proliferated hate posed as freedom of speech. Things got messy, Bartlett’s Law of exponential growth took effect, and they couldn’t stop. That’s when it happened.
Creation started moving faster than scrutiny.
From printing cloth to printing paper to Twitter, technology has reshaped the way we read, write, and think, and as the rate of dissemination increases we become increasingly forgiving of mistakes. #orderbs. #whaebs.
Twitter is a bit of a bull in a china shop; we don’t care if someone misses a comma or an apostrophe (or slays the entire English language, cc: Justin Bieber) because most of the information is disposable, because mediocrity is disposable. We expect a bit of doggerel. However, when a publication that prides itself on being “the world’s most meticulously edited magazine” falls victim to blatant oversight, is it safe to assume that the bull has left the china shop and is currently on its way to storm the capital and its letters? While dragging the MLA Handbook or the AP Stylebook into a discussion of online content is obstructive, anachronistic even, is it contentious to wonder if the need for more is slowly obliterating the need for standards (cc: Marina Shifrin)? Not everything is epigrammatic.
A bull is a very dangerous bovine, and unless you find a tree to climb or can turn right on a dime, it very well might kill you. (Or in relation to this discussion, the English language.) Applying dated standards may feel like trying to send an email from a typewriter or trying to decipher emoticons with the Rosetta Stone, but if reading and writing are the stakes, are we kidding ourselves that it doesn’t matter?