True wit is nature to advantage dress’d

What of was thought but ne’er so well expressed. (Pope)

My understanding of the nature of inner speech, which I wrote about here, has been further devloped by a thought provoking article from Charles Fernyhough.

Charles writes that Twitter is his ‘line to the outside world’.

As well as the ‘inevitable distraction Twitter offers’, he finds it incredibly useful as a research tool. I heartily endorse this: every time I go on to Twitter I find at least half a dozen links that send me to resources that are fascinating, instructive, practical, sometimes funny or poignant – though not always at the same time. These undoubtedly enhance my learning. I think it is the very best form of  personalised CPD.

Charles adds: ‘I suspect that I also use Twitter to think out loud’.  He continues reflecting on the nature of children’s private speech which:

seems to be their medium of thinking before verbal thought becomes internalized. I wonder whether I use Twitter for some of the same purposes. Talking to yourself seems to have many different functions, for adults as well as children. For one thing, it can express feelings. Many of children’s private utterances seem to have a function in emotion expression and regulation. I don’t have any data on the topic, but I suspect that a decent proportion of tweets involve people saying that they are happy, sad, excited or angry. A comment like ‘Wow, I wish this delivery guy would show’ can get a frustration off your chest while clearing mental space for the next thing. …

Just as importantly, the medium can be used to think through a problem. … Just putting it down in words seems to get me somewhere. When I want to tweet about something I’m grappling with, I find it amazingly useful to push myself to express it clearly in 140 characters. Stripping it down forces me to work out what I want to say.

I often don’t know what I think until I articulate it: this for me is generally in writing rather than speech. Charles describes this:

When I looked back at what I had just posted into the ether, I realized that I had finally succeeded in expressing my question clearly.

He says that private speech is

a tool for communicating with the self. Once we have moved on from private speech in the classroom or playground, Twitter and other online media make possible that same conjunction between private and public thought. …

Because Twitter is a medium that allows thinking to be shared, it gives you an impression that you are contributing to a thought process that extends beyond you. ..

Amid all the media storms about the evils of online social networks, it might be worth asking whether these digital obsessions can sometimes do us some good.

Thanks Charles for articulating my thoughts so much more lucidly than I could! ‘Just putting it down in words seems to get me somewhere’.

If you’re interested in early child development do take a good look at Charles Fernyhough’s lovely book, The Baby in the Mirror.