We now live in the Digital Age. We take photos with our digital cameras, letting us take thousands of photos as we can easily delete photos that did not turn out well. We write emails on our computers, where we often type and retype, proofreading and editing until we have perfectly sculpted our message. We bombard each other with messages that package complex words and feelings into neat little abbreviations and emoticons.
Going digital has, without a doubt, made our lives easier. Digital is exact and fast, while being easily editable thanks to existing only in virtual space. But what is the price of convenience? Did we lose something in the process?
Before the Digital Age, we used film cameras that required careful photography as we had a limited number of shots per roll of film. We wrote handwritten letters, where we had to give considerable thought to what we were going to write before even picking up the pen, lest we waste another sheet of paper. If we wanted to say something important to someone we cared about, we would do it face to face, or at least over a phone call, where our body language and voice gave off subtle nuances about how we truly felt.
As cumbersome as this sounds, the value of analog is that it focusses on quality, not quantity. We no longer have photo albums that summarise a whole year (or even childhood) in just dozens of carefully curated photos. Instead, we have albums full of hundreds of pictures per day, which we rarely review because there are too many to go through.
The worst consequence of going digital is that our words have lost weight and substance. We throw words at each other like paper planes because we feel compelled to reply in some way. We think less about our choice of words because they are a dime a dozen, yet we overanalyse the meaning of what others say in a message because we have no other cues such as body language. We become hurt by hollow words and emoticons devoid of feeling and personality.
We are still analog. We cannot treat each other like photos that can be taken en masse then culled, or a word document that can be freely edited. We should put more care into the things we say to each other – with more thought, feeling and personality – to avoid hurting each other so much.
Han Suk-Bong is a famous writer from the Joseon Dynasty (Korea during 14th to 19th century), who was praised as “the master writer of the East” even in the Ming Dynasty (China during 14th to 17th century). His writing and calligraphy were partly thanks to his inborn talent, but also because of his intense training and practise throughout his life. There is a famous story regarding his training.
Han Suk-Bong practised calligraphy since a young age by himself, practising every day. The villagers all praised his talent and his mother sent him to a famous temple to study. After four years of studying, Han missed his mother so much that he sneaked out during the night and returned home. When he told his mother that he there was nothing more for him to learn, she told him to turn the lights off and said: “I will slice rice cakes while you write, then we will compare our skills”. After the two silently did their best work in the darkness, they turned the light on and it was evident that Han’s letters were all crooked and unsightly while his mother’s rice cakes were perfectly sliced in even thickness. Han deeply repented his arrogance and realised there was so much more to learn. His mother told him off and told him not to set foot in the house again until he could write perfectly even with his eyes closed, just as she could slice rice cakes perfectly. Thanks to his mother’s passion for his education, Han became one of the most well-known masters of calligraphy and literature in the Far East.
The best type of parent is one who identifies a child’s natural talents early on and helps them develop those skills. If the child becomes lost, loses their way or fall into the pit of arrogance believing they are the best, it is the parent’s duty to correct them. The moment you believe that there is nothing more to learn, you become a failure.
One weakness with the English alphabet is that when they are spelt out aloud, some letters are too similar and end up being confused. For example, B sounds like D and M sounds like N. Although this is not too major an issue in normal life, it becomes very problematic when giving important information over the phone, such as an identification number. The same problem applies in the military where precise orders are required. To overcome the issue of similar-sounding letters, many systems have been developed to replace the letters with words when spelling words aloud over the phone or radio. For example, if the ID number EFS9201 has to be told to the other person, it can be read as “echo-foxtrot-sierra-nine-two-zero-one”. It is also used in the military to say abbreviations, such as “oscar mike” for “on the move”. As the spelling alphabet system is designed so that no two words sound similar, it is a very effective way of accurately transmitting information over the phone.
The spelling alphabet (NATO phonetic alphabet) is as follows:
The following is the shortest letter ever written in history and its reply:
It was written by the author of the famous “Les Miserables”, Victor Hugo, in 1862 to ask his publisher how his book (Les Miserables) was selling. The publisher, amused by Hugo’s creativity, sent back an equally witty reply.