There was a huge story in a Finnish newspaper about the problems youngsters have with their writing skills. Teachers were worried about the fact that young people can no longer write text which can be understood, stating that their skills have collapsed in the last ten years. Some kids write their names just by using a period, e.g., matti.virtanen. The article claimed that the reason for this decline in writing abilities is social media and how people are messaging with each other.
My oldest son belongs to the category of people who don’t want to read anything. He just hangs out with his phone and sends messages with pictures. He has Instagram and YouTube accounts, and when he wants to learn something, he simply watches a video. He has learned everything from the internet: how to build a bridge out of Legos, cook marshmallows, and make slime. He has almost 400 followers in Instagram, and he shares videos where he does gymnastics. Some kids nearby have started to send him messages, asking him to teach them how to do a backflip.
Young people can´t see any use for long, written information. When they text their pals, their writing is awful—no capital letters, no commas, no periods. They just run everything together and use small letters. When you mention that their writing is awful to young people, they just say, “Hey, it doesn´t matter. Where do I need it? I don’t have to read because there is YouTube, and I can always send a voice message or a picture.” They are right—one no longer needs to read or write in order to learn something or to message someone. It´s no wonder kids feel frustrated while reading and writing.
The world has become faster and more instant. We are constantly online, and we must react rapidly. One guy from a Silicon Valley business incubator once told me he gets a very interesting business idea every five minutes. So, who has time to read long texts and write correctly? As we know, nobody wants to read long emails. We get frustrated immediately when we see a long email, and writing that long email is even harder. It takes time to write; we need to think carefully, so people won´t get the wrong impression. Everybody knows how dangerous it is to interpret an email, because we can´t see the emotions or the tone of voice of the writer. Sometimes is just easier to pop off an emoji as the answer to a message.
When I started my schooling, we spent many hours each week learning how to write with proper handwriting. Then, we spent many hours learning how to write correctly using commas, periods, and capital letters at the beginning of sentence. If we couldn´t do it properly, the teacher had us write the sentences repeatedly until we got it right, which was fine. Nowadays, at least in Finland, pupils learn European standard handwriting, and they practice it only in the early grades for a couple of hours a week. After that, everything is written on a computer. In my youth, we read books at school. I liked to read in my free time as a youngster, and I still do. Nowadays, however, I often notice that I have difficulty focusing on reading. My days are busy, and I get too many messages. I have tried to read books and have started them, but I soon realize I don´t have the power to focus on the content. And I like reading! I can´t even imagine how difficult it is for those who don’t like to read or who find it useless.
What can be done? Should we just throw up our hands and say that we don´t need these writing skills anymore? We are going back to the Egyptian Age when cavemen drew pictures on the walls. They told a story; we, on the other hand, message with each other. The skill of storytelling is still a very important skill. Every businessman knows that. But where do we practice storytelling if we no longer do it in the school, and if pupils find it difficult and useless and don´t have the ability to focus on it anymore? Will stories be told in different forms in the future, maybe just in short videos and pictures?