It’s a double-edged sword this social media stuff isn’t it? We really can’t do without it. Not only because we have this kind of fetish for being connected, but it’s just such a powerful tool–literally transforming the world. It’s also a lot of fun, right? Not always fun. Facebook can be a bore and Twitter sometimes feels like everyone is patting themselves on the back for tweeting every 10 minutes (I understand there’s an app for that), with few actually reading.
But, yesterday, as I was reading about Jennifer Egan’s candid discussion from last week about her apprehension of social media, something that had been rattling around in my subconscious surfaced. Here’s one sound-byte:
“Who cares that we can connect?” she said. “What’s the big deal? I think Facebook is colossally dull. I think it’s like everyone coming to live in a huge Soviet apartment block, [in] which everyone’s cell looks exactly the same.”
The power of this little computer-thing that I now type from is its own downfall, at least for one like me who needs to lose himself in his own narrative. Of course it’s beyond amazing that anytime there’s anything you need to know while writing the novel, simply click your browser button, Google the term you need–BOOM!–47 articles plus images of everything you want to know about your given subject. Isn’t that actually a great advantage for a novelist? In a sense, you could almost say that the flow of one’s narrative shouldn’t suffer “old-fashioned” interruptions because you can just incorporate what you need to know seamlessly into your day’s writing. But we all know that somehow it just doesn’t work out that way. There’s a reason why they call it “hyper” links.
You can get lost in the maze of links just from Wikipedia. You can hit the radio. You may feel compelled to check your two email accounts just to make sure everything is okay out there. And here you are reading my blog, wondering what you might do with it. Should you “Like” it (yes!)? Should you bother to comment, link it to Facebook or Twitter? What’s in it for you? Will I now read your blog? Are we all just running in circles clinging to the illusion of connection? See how I get carried away? Maybe all I’m really doing is maximizing my capacity for ADD. So, here’s the question: What about inventing “the new typewriter”?
I’m serious. What about creating an instrument that typed as smoothly as my MacBook, but felt like an instrument at its purest, its singularity? No distractions. Just you and your disconnected, simple machine. It could be huge.
Now, all you have to do is launch it with a massive social media campaign.