@martinlutherking: ‘I have a dream lol’

Increasing use of Twitter to provide quotes in news stories means we may have few inspirational words to look back on in the years to come.

Here is an extract from an interview with Eric Cantona in FourFourTwo magazine in 2008:

“I was just a footballer and a man. I don’t care about being some sort of superior person…If I want to kick a fan, I do it. I’m not a role model. I’m not a superior teacher, telling you how to behave.”

And here is a quote from England cricketer Kevin Pietersen today:

“@piersmorgan Confirming the BREAKING NEWS mate: I fly home tonight. Out of the WC & IPL (Indian Premier League)…Absolutely devastated!!…not a lot u can do about injuries mate!! onwards & upwards.”

When I saw the latter, in the second paragraph of a perfectly good report from the respected Reuters news agency, I thought: “Yep, it’s happened. I’m 30 years old, and I’m already convinced that the written word is being dragged down the drain.”

Forget the content for now – although they are both fascinating insights into the minds of deep-thinking men.

Just look at the text. Already, by using Pietersen’s “quote”, my lovely blog page is a mess.

The clean lines of the Al Jazeera graphics, the smouldering profile photo – stabbed to death by a thousand exclamation marks, rogue capitals, and the spelling of “you” as “u”.

(Incidentally, the Reuters reporter – @mlanchakra – has manfully tried to smooth out this Twittering by explaining that IPL means Indian Premier League. I should further point out that WC refers to the Cricket World Cup, and not “Water Closet”.)

This is not a rant against Twitter. I use it myself (follow me on @Paul_Rhys_Sport, Tweeps!).

Social media is breaking down communication barriers, giving people a voice without the need for a journalist, and conveying vital information from historic events such as the revolutions in Egypt and Libya.

What bothers me is this. Quotations – whether in sport, politics, or just your local newspaper – are fantastic.

People buy dictionaries of them. They teach you about life and humanity. They inject emotion.

If people Tweet instead of speak, our oral and literary tradition is being vastly altered. Think of what we’re potentially losing.

Neil Armstrong, first man on moon
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

“Yo Tweeps! Just landin on da moon, can see all of u from up here yoohoo!! Modern technology, whateva next lol”

Macbeth, from William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth
“Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more
Macbeth does murder sleep’ – the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care.”

“Hey Tweeps, any1 still up? Can’t get 2 sleep since I murdered @KingDuncan. Feel all guilty and stuff – any tips? -)”

Khalil Gibran, in The Prophet
“And then a scholar said, ‘Speak of Talking.’
And he answered, saying:
You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.
And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.”

“Just answering a few Tweets…want to let @Scholar know that you should shut up and be quiet for a bit or you’ll go stupid, ok m8??”

I’ll leave Martin Luther King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial well alone, but you get the idea.

I’m trying to find a convincing argument as to why something is going wrong here.

In truth, I don’t have one.

At least we’re getting the “real” Pietersen – who by the way is very interesting when he opens his mouth instead of his iPhone – when he yabbers away on Twitter, rather than a drab statement from his agent.

It’s probably just snobbery of a sort. I like reading. A well-constructed sentence can be a joy. I’d swap a single line of P.G. Wodehouse for all the Twittering in the world.

I guess we can have both. And when a nicely-written news report is destroyed by a Twitter barrage, I’ll just shake my head and remember when all this was fields. Lol.

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