In 1982 David Ogilvy sent a memo to all his employees titled ‘How to Write’.
One of the instructions simply stated, “Write the way you talk. Naturally”.
If you were to write down a random spoken conversation word-for-word, the dialogue would most likely resemble Tweets more than it would novels: throwaway remarks, mundane observations, brief questions and comments.
Which raises the question of why people write and behave online in ways they never would in real life.
Many have suggested that the security of sitting behind a screen makes it easier to vilify and shame others. Jon Ronson’s recent book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed looks at how easy it is to jump on the bandwagon of shaming someone whose actions are deemed distasteful or obnoxious: a PR exec who was sacked after making a bad joke about Aids and Africa, or a careworker who was lambasted after being photographed fooling around in a cemetery.
The only problem with using such mass online shaming to curb these examples of anti-social behaviour is that the result is often way out of proportion to their ‘crime’.
Monica Lewinsky’s TED talk on the price of shame – and her presentation at the Cannes Lions festival – explained that most people who use social media as a tool to vent their outrage aren’t really that upset, they’re just feigning shock to join in with the baying crowd.
Humiliation as sport.
Twitter makes it easier to communicate with others. But often, nuance, empathy and context are lost in the brutal simplicity of a Tweet.
As Monica Lewinsky puts it, “We need to click with compassion”.