Is Facebook Turning College Students Into Terrible Writers?

The social media giant encourages students to write only to themselves and to those who are just like them.

Like texting, tweeting, and instant messaging, grammar rules aren't required for Facebook status updates or photo captions. But is the site turning college students into terrible writers? Writing instructor Lisa Lebduska argues in an essay over at Inside Higher Ed that the problem with Facebook actually isn't that it makes punctuation optional. Instead, the real issue might be that Facebook creates a "mirror" where students "write only to themselves and to those who are just like them."

Lebduska first began thinking about this after adding Facebook to the "Hall of Literacy Villainy" in order to make dinner party conversations with her fellow academics—who regularly complained about student's bad writing—more interesting. As interesting as those debates surely were, she says the negative impact of Facebook on writing could be real since

Facebook writers expect homogeneity from their audience. All readers read the same observation, and insights in the same way, regardless of who they are, what they know, what they need to know or even what they seek. Facebook writers do not select, shape or color moments and thoughts for particular readers. They trade the pleasure of imagining the absent reader for the imagined adoring gaze of selves. And they expect their friends to "like" their posts, pictures etc. immediately, and to shower them publicly with praise.

That's the exact opposite of what teachers need students to be able to do on research papers and other assignments. Students have to learn to write for the reader—who might not share the same point of view—not for themselves. But Lebduska ultimately lets Facebok off the hook. If college professors don't expect students "to think of someone, anyone, other than themselves," that's not Facebook's fault. If professors don't want to help students develop their writing style, or understand that the "like" button won't be clicked on everything they write, they shouldn't complain about assignment quality.

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