Monday, June 17, 2013

Social Media and the Writer's Life

It seems writers have often led a solitary and isolating life.  Is technology isolating us even more or is it bringing the world to our doorstep? This is the first of an occasional essay on social media and the writer's life.

That Third Reality  ~ By Edda R. Pitassi

It was a lovely June morning, and I was driving to the Saturday seminar I had registered for at my college’s Alumni Weekend festivities.  The lecture, “What’s Trending,” being given by a favorite English teacher, would provide both light and shadow to the rest of my day.

After listening to 60 minutes of a mixed bag of consonant clusters and acronyms; an ‘A to Z’ soup of apps, androids, iPads, iPhones, Smartphones and ‘Zite’ (a new ‘personalized' magazine for my phone’), I thought our group of some 20 former Communications/English majors (including the 2 lecturers) might spend a brief time talking about ‘the good old days of books, magazines and newspapers.’ 
In today’s texting, ‘ru kiddin me’?  No time for that.  
Some attendees  - branching into the blogosphere - wanted to learn ‘how to monetize’ their blogs.  No time for that. The teachers were not moved.

Booklovers among us cried out, “Why doesn’t anyone read anymore?” 

One of us answered:  “You know what Steve Jobs said…'people don’t read anymore.’"

“We could spend hours talking about the changes in storytelling, journalism and media,” the teacher said.  

We could, but we will not, is what he meant to say.

Our group went on to share a few pleasantries, we said our goodbyes, and I walked back to my car.  As I opened its door and got inside, I found my hands tightening onto the steering wheel.  I looked out the car window and took in the lovely natural surroundings of the campus, the warm sun, the blue sky, and the newer, modest buildings resting fairly comfortably among the older, more stately ones.  The splendid green trees still stood tall.  I took a deep breath.
As I felt myself getting upset, my stomach performed its customary somersaults.      I wanted to cry.  Instead, I put my head on my hands.  So many questions buzzed through my mind.  After a few moments, I drove home, and my mind would not stop racing. 
Do we really need English Lit teachers anymore?  What’s the point of Shakespeare or Milton?  Or Dickens? Hemingway?  Edith Wharton?  Plays?  Theater?
Is there any value in the artful turn of a phrase?  
Will phrases – or sentences -survive? 
Will words still matter? 
Will the structure of language – as we have learned and understood it in our lifetime – become extinct? 
Will new generations speak and write only in fragments, and will we of an older culture still be able to understand them - and each other?
What is a Communications or Journalism degree worth in today’s expanding Mobile/ Digital /Technology World? 
Wouldn’t students and colleges both save many thousands of dollars just by having teachers learn and teach the newest ‘Apps’ and work with students on how to use them for digital storytelling?

"Oh, wait," one of the teachers at the seminar said. “These kids don’t know how to tell a story anymore.” 

My thoughts continued as I drove the verdant Pennsylvania countryside:

Should I still keep trying to write and publish short stories? 
Should I learn how to write poetry instead? 
As a published author, is there an audience for my work outside of cyberspace? 
It’s so crazy out there…who will listen? 
Where?  On the run? 

The questions flooded my mind, and I began to understand the truth of living in more than one reality.   I’m familiar with living in the natural and the physical.  That third reality - Living Online - disturbs me.  Okay… it terrifies me.
I know technology is reshaping the world.  I get it.  I see all those disembodied faces sitting at restaurant tables, or waiting in line for a table, their thumbs tapping away or sweeping on a screen.  No one talks.
I wonder . . .  do they even taste their food when a smiling waiter or waitress places it in front of them.? I never hear ‘thank you’.
I don’t want  to stray too far from my natural, physical, human roots.  I feel myself clutching harder at the steering wheel.  My eyes fall on the ominous lawn signs along my road home:  “Final Days for Furniture Sale.”
Final Days – indeed.

What are your thoughts on how social media affects the writer?

Edda R. Pitassi has maintained a love/hate relationship with writing since she started seeing her “letters to the editor” in print at age fifteen.  A published journalist with several suburban newspapers, she currently contributes a monthly book review for Chester County Seniors! newspaper.  A former web content writer and proofreader, her employment history includes a 20-year career with IBM.  Highlights of her writing life comprise a writing internship in New York City, editing Morning at Wellington Square, and contributing to the Women’s Writing Circle.  Her most recent work includes a short story, "The Zen Art of Peeling Potatoes," and a poem, "An Aging Rolling Stones Riff," in Slants of Light: Stories and Poems From the Women's Writing Circle.

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