I recently tweeted about my dislike of words and phrases such as “Enterprise 2.0” and “the people” These are mass words. They depersonalise. They make it easier to see fellow human beings as “other”. I then acknowledged my inconsistency in that I am happy to make sweeping generalisations about “IT”.
It is easy to be too relaxed about words. To use them without due care and attention assuming that everyone gives them the same meaning as we do. This is one of the things I love about Twitter – the discipline that writing well for 140 characters calls for. You only have a few words and have to make them count. If you get it wrong, or are unclear about your meaning, there are consequences.
This is also what I love about writing in public. Our use of words has consequences, albeit modest, beyond our own thoughts. I recently quoted Orwell in a Facebook update and although some understood my reference, my lack of context setting caused others to misinterpret my meaning. Unlike conventional printed forms of writing, online we can be called to task immediately about our words. While this is testing and can be intimidating it is also strengthening. We have to think about what we think and why we think it.