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By Sam Vaknin
Author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"

YouTube has already replaced Yahoo and will shortly overtake Google as the primary Web search destination among children and teenagers. Its repository of videos - hitherto mere entertainment - is now beginning to also serve as a reference library and a news source. This development seals the fate of text. It is being dethroned as the main vehicle for the delivery of information, insight, and opinion.

This is only the latest manifestation in a plague of intellectual turpitude that is threatening to undermine not only the foundations of our civilization, but also our survival as a species. People have forgotten how to calculate because they now use calculators; they don't bother to memorize facts or poetry because it is all available online; they read less, much less, because they are inundated with sounds and sights, precious few of which convey any useful information or foster personal development.

A picture is worth 1000 words. But, words have succeeded pictograms and ideograms and hieroglyphs for good reasons. The need to combine the symbols of the alphabet so as to render intelligible and communicable one's inner states of mind is conducive to abstract thought. It is also economical; imposes mental discipline; develops the imagination; engenders synoptic thinking; and preserves the idiosyncrasies and the uniqueness of both the author and its cultural-social milieu. Visual are a poor substitute as far as these functions go.

In a YouTube world, literacy will have vanished and with it knowledge. Visuals and graphics can convey information, but they rarely proffer organizing principles and theories. They are explicit and thus shallow and provide no true insight. They demand little of the passive viewer and, therefore, are anti-intellectual. In this last characteristic, they are true to the Internet and its anti-elitist, anti-expert, mob-wisdom-driven spirit. Visuals encourage us to outsource our "a-ha" moments and the formation of our worldview and to entrust them to the editorial predilections of faceless crowds of often ignorant strangers.

Moreover, the sheer quantity of material out there makes it impossible to tell apart true and false and to distinguish between trash and quality. Inundated by "user-generated-content" and disoriented, future generations will lose their ability to discriminate. YouTube is only the logical culmination of processes started by the Web. The end result will be an entropy of information, with bits isotropically distributed across vast farms of servers and consumed by intellectual zombies who can't tell the difference and don't care to.


Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East.

He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, Global Politician, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam's Web site at

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The following comments are for "The Decline of Text and the Re-emergence of the Visual"
by samvak

Not really
I beg to disagree. It all depends on what use is made of it .

To take ,what might well be an extreme example : the US's nuclear arsenal ( its ICBMs etc.) can be used either for offense or defense. The former is always 'bad' . While the latter is nearly always 'good' - even if it results in a few hundred million of its 'enemies' etc. being wiped off the face of the earth.

Thanks to youtube ,it is possible to watch the great movies and music of yesteryear. And listen to discourses by the truly great and the enlightened , again of yesteryear.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: March 7, 2009 )

Panic Journalism

Making absolute statements ('This Will Happen') in relation to articles detailing possible trends or futures is the provenance of Fox News. Any credibility you might have built up goes out the window.

Secondly, how is this prediction any different from the statements made in the mid-80's about how MTV and cable television will destroy the attention spans of the young and impressionable? And yet, the Harry Potter books are big enough to house small families, and any Neal Stephenson novel chosen at random would probably kill someone if you threw it at them.

Furthermore, your fear of user-generated content does not seem warranted to me. For all the jokes made about it, any given subject covered in Wikipedia is accurate far more often than it is inaccurate. Hell, most of the entries *cite sources*, which is more than can be said for both Fox News and this column. And that's entirely user-generated and user-edited. Every bit of it.

You seem to have a very low opinion of people, especially young people- to regard them, in fact, as a sort of human sheep, capable of being herded to their intellectual deaths by anyone with a big enough stick. If you really believe in the impending death of language and literature, and zombification of anyone who might ever have wanted to read anythng...why are you writing these columns? If it's all so inevitable, isn't this the equivalent of fiddling whilst Rome burns?

( Posted by: Beckett Grey [Member] On: March 8, 2009 )

Umm? SamVak, etc.--

( Posted by: TheRealKarmaTseringLhamo [Member] On: March 9, 2009 )

That's...thoroughly unsettling. Good on you for pointing that out, Karma.

( Posted by: Beckett Grey [Member] On: March 9, 2009 )

@ Karma
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times -- true anonymity on the net is a thing of the past.


( Posted by: OchaniLele [Member] On: March 9, 2009 )

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