Take social media seriously
The stable mystery in social networking is whether the latest iteration will be a “fad” or a fundamental new institwution that others will build upon. In a type of Darwinian competition, sites compete for inclusion in the latter category.
The stable mystery in social networking is whether the latest iteration will be a “fad” or a fundamental new institwution that others will build upon. In a type of Darwinian competition, sites compete for inclusion in the latter category. There are two such mediums, however, that have already made a lasting mark as radical new forms of artistic expression, if not vital cyber-institutions. Tweeting and blogging present phenomenal new access to the human psyche on a micro and macro level. They should be taken seriously as mediums of literary expression, and they have the capacity to showcase new aspects of human nature that are not accessible in traditional literature.
First, the question arises as to why anyone should respect blogs and Twitter on their literary merit. Many are written stream-of-conscious, by mere plebeians versus traditionally educated intellectuals, and thus the language deviates phenomenally from traditional texts. To snub or ignore these handles for these reasons, however, forwards a notion of literary purism – the idea that there is a “right” language, and any deviating vernaculars signify lack of status or intelligence. While this is a debate for a later forum, my take would be that we should be wary of purist notions of language in the modern world and accept the deviations present in these forums as important cultural expressions free from hierarchical language “classes.” In other words, the specific presentation of the language should not be a judge of its quality.
With that out of the way, we should move towards the content. Tweeting and blogging have lasting cultural implications. They have fundamentally changed the way that our generation utilizes and interprets the written word. Before modern technology, people primarily read about other societies in a story format or third-person perspective. One would read a book or an article in a newspaper to find out about other cultures or other dimensions of human experience. If stories were written in first-person perspective, only a minority were informal, highly personal narratives. Today, college students arguably rely on media in the first-person perspective to gather news, and to learn about other people. Tweets supply quick news, and blogs chronicle diverse human experience and supply entertainment. In short, in modern society, people utilize informal, highly personal mediums to gather information.
One should further consider the strange ramifications of anonymous blogging and tweeting. Literature is judged and constructed for an audience; it is a reactive medium intended to anticipate audience response. So, when one has the capacity to restrict the audience to solely unknown, anonymous viewers, he or she has incredible new freedom to bare their soul. I have had the unique opportunity to read a blog of an acquaintance who assumes her forum is presented to completely unknown viewers. What I’ve found is she has a unique freedom to criticize and present herself freely and honestly; the experience of reading it is akin to reading a diary. Because of the nature of the blog, she is not even subconsciously aware that acquaintances might read her posts and form judgments of her. She has total freedom to shape her self-image. Even anonymous literature does not have this capacity, because it is still read by a mass audience versus a blog’s 100-1000
Twitter is another such novel forum. Even when presented to the public, it is a fresh representation of the psyche because of its breadth. Besides blogging (Facebook does not require personal posts), it is one of the only forums allowing one to present themselves to the public in small, personal slices over an extended period of time. A dedicated, personal Twitter handle thus has the unique capacity to reveal an unedited human conscious. In fact, it draws to light questions about human identity itself. Is the social essence of a person their interactive physical presence or the version represented over time through these handles? Are they fundamentally different? Are the handles more honest about self than physically social interaction, or less so?
The answers to these questions are enormously significant and have much to say about the nature of human expression. These forums make the human mind less and less a private black box; they allow a leaking of identity that cannot be expressed strictly through conversation or abstract artistic means.
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