The internet is a powerful medium, but not as powerful as the spoken word. For proof, simply look at the news and read the headlines. Words can hurt. Words can heal. Words can solve problems — and words can create more problems than you could ever imagine.
The internet creates an information super-highway where words have no speed limit and there are no boundaries for where they can travel. When you say something at home with friends, or in the office with co-workers, those words can easily travel from your mouth to someone’s ears, through their fingertips and into the pixelated ether for anyone and everyone to pick up, read and hear.
In some cases those words can be inspirational, such as Kevin Durant’s 2013-2014 MVP speech, or the Stanford commencement speech from Steve Jobs back in 2005. In other cases they can be repulsive, such as the remarks of Donald Sterling (formerly of the Los Angeles Clippers) or the YouTube video posted by Elliot Rodger just before the Santa Barbara shootings. Either way, words are simply the most powerful manifestation of humanity — both right and wrong.
Words are protected by the Constitution of the United States, but they go far beyond the boundaries of a single country, extending throughout the rest of the world. What you say in Iowa can have an impact on a child in Thailand, and vice versa. Words do not have an age requirement, or an age limit. Words uttered by a two-year-old can have just as much impact as the words written and spoken by an 86-year-old woman with more knowledge and experience than her peers. The works of Maya Angelou have helped more people throughout the world than she possibly ever would have imagined, but she didn’t set out to change the world. She simply set out to express herself.
When words are set to music, they can do even more, but that is probably a column for another day.
The last month has proven one thing to me: regardless of how far down the path of technology and innovation we go, we will never surpass the power of words. Advertisers spend billions each year to improve targeting, but at the end of the day, words are what really matter. I love data and I love targeting, but no level of high technology can overcome poor writing. When I see an ad on TV and when I read an ad in a magazine, the words are what resonate. Targeting may have put the right ad in front of me, but the words are what make me remember it.
I saw a column recently that stated, ‘No Internet ad has ever made you cry’. If that’s the case, then I blame the words in those ads, because the words are what tap into emotion, delivering the sentiments that make you laugh, cry or feel content.
The world is filled with brilliant people who can put words into actions, but there are far fewer people who can simply put out brilliant words and let them sink in for the rest of us to read. Maya Angelou will be praised for years to come, while people like Donald Sterling will be forced to rethink how they speak, what they think and where they choose to go with their lives. Hopefully, as a result of the speed of dissemination of words such as these, other people will be forced to take a look at themselves and find the right words for the future.
One can only hope. One can only dream.
This post was first published by MediaPost.com and is republished here with the permission of the author.