I have been naughty.
I plead guilty.
And if you have read this far, your patience for narcissistic writing far outlasts my own. I confess, I am guilty of egging on the conversation a bit about the quaint, Victorian notion of inserting two spaces after what is called a period here in America, though the Brits might recognize it as a full stop, an egregious typesetting practice spilling well into the twenty-first century, indicating our visual literacy is not keeping pace with advancements in technology. No typesetter worth her salt would approve.
For those with the attention span of a gnat and zero appreciation for Robert Bringhurst’s poetic writing, a slender trade paperback was published a number of years ago, titled, Your Macintosh Is Not a Typewriter. Maybe some enterprising publisher needs to set to work on a revised edition:
Your iPad Is Not a Typewriter
And Marker Felt Is Not a Typeface
Or maybe we could come up with a technological solution to this educational problem. Maybe Microsoft could bring back Mr. Clippy, maybe updated for the twenty-first century, Ms. Clippy, a cartoon character that would pop up any time the maladroit typist attempted to insert two spaces following a period:
It looks like you are trying to type. May I be of assistance?
And magically eradicate the offending lake in a body of text while the user preoccupies himself with trying to shut off Ms. Clippy.
From Matthew Butterick’s Typography for Lawyers, I learn that single spacing is not simply good type design and good page layout, the practice is also stipulated by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Good typesetting. It’s the law.
So why has our visual literacy not kept pace with our technology?
After taking a typing test at a temporary employment agency whose clients leaned toward the lawyerly set and the software for the test actually required two spaces after every period or the test was marked for “errors” in my typing, I might reverse the question: why is our technology visually illiterate?
And in what ways does our technology encourage or enable what seems to be our cultural narcissistic disorder, as when blog comments contribute to the conversation beginning with, “I think,” or “Well, I think…” or “Wull, I think…” Before doing so, ask yourself:
Do I think?
How do I think?
What has informed or influenced my thinking?
A second case study:
Under the definition for narcissistic personality disorder at the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, one commenter, Judith, sounds like a woman in a lot of pain. She describes a deeply damaged relationship with one of her daughters, whom she defines as narcissistic. She also describes her former husband as narcissistic, and goes on to describe a complex network of kinships, births, deaths, marriages, and divorces. Of the offending daughter, Judith describes her as “making us feel stupid,” a big-time player in the Shame and Blame Game.
Judith – and for all of the Judiths out there – may I offer you a card whereby you might learn to un-play that game? Think of it as a Get Out of Jail Free card, if this game were Monopoly. You might throw it down any time you want to escape your prison of pain. Here’s the card:
No other person can make you feel.
Once you remove “she makes me” from the description of your feelings, what do you have left?
I feel stupid.
Nobody likes to feel stupid. It doesn’t feel good, does it? Whatever those feelings of “stupid” mean – shame, ugliness, powerlessness, frustration, sadness, loss, underneath it all, fear – it is easier to blame those feelings on another than to go directly to that stupid feeling, and begin to examine it. Or just feel it. Likely, Judith’s feelings stem from someplace other than her interactions with her daughter, likely predating her daughter’s existence, or even her relationship with her former husband. If you want to understand yourself and your feelings better, go to those all-important first five years. When did you first learn to feel stupid? Who taught you to feel stupid?
Once you pull that card, it gives you tremendous power. Your feelings are no longer under the control of another person. With power comes increased responsibility. You can no longer blame your feelings on another.
Are there any commenters out there who might add a link to a third case study of the confluence between technology, visual literacy, and narcissism?