Questions or comments? Contact Britt Chester at firstname.lastname@example.org
In writing this, I am immediately filled with the skepticism that I carry every time I read a new status update on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or even Instagram, at this point in life: What is the point of writing anymore?
The Internet has leveled the playing field between novelists, bloggers, columnists, and journalists. No longer do people look to the newspaper for news, and why should they? The moment anything happens it is reported on by an onlooker, who is then a credible source for a newspaper, who then reports what the original person tweeted, and by the time the report passes the editors desk, it’s old news. That’s a scary world to live in. Shit, the title of this column in and of itself could be summed up in a single tweet: What’s the point of writing something that can be summed up in 140 characters? And I’ve still got 850 words left to use on either a link to my forthcoming novel, or a picture of it.
This is not news by any means. This is not even a revelation that hundreds of thousands of people haven’t already experienced , and most likely have already tweeted about. What it is, though, is an awakening. It’s the realization that we have allowed technology to infiltrate our personal lives to the point of fear and insecurity. The old adage “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make a noise?” easily summates life in the 21 st century: If an event occurs and no one is around to report it with pictures, video, and a meme, did it really happen?
Yes, it did. Life happens. Breakfast is served and is still delicious whether or not your second cousin’s ex-girlfriend in New Zealand sees how undercooked your eggs are in a vintagefiltered picture. The concert you are attending is still enjoyable even if you don’t share a 15-second clip to your 634 followers. The Asian lady attempting to parallel-park her car in front of you is still trying to proceed with that task whether or not you make a mildly racist status update about your frustrations with her on your Facebook page, in your app on your smartphone that is illegal to use whilst operating a motor vehicle.
I began my career in journalism because writing is something that I am deeply passionate about. It started in creative writing courses where I learned how to structure fictional stories that follow a predetermined curve as to how a story is supposed to read. That led to English courses that taught me new words and how to use them properly. Then I was welcomed in the doors of my first journalism course, which basically taught me how to look at the world in terms of stories.
It’s how I view everything now. I can’t go anywhere, meet anyone, or do anything without asking questions about origin, future plans, or recent tragedy. I look for it everywhere, and I am always able to derive some sort of story (whether I tell it or not in a printed publication is ultimately up to whomever I’m pitching it to) that I feel needs to be told.
You can’t throw a stone these days without someone taking a picture of you doing so, then tweeting out the picture with “#SaveTheRocks.”
In trying to expedite the world we live in – speed up access to information and communication – we have essentially slowed ourselves down. Restaurants wait times are higher because tables take longer because conversations with people who aren’t there are occurring via text message, Facebook, or any other host of applications that allow for mobile communication. You can’t go to a concert without having your view somehow disrupted by a 2″ x 4″ screen capturing the same moment for later view. I’ve been asked to move while appreciating art in galleries because someone wants to have their picture taken in front of the piece I’m currently viewing.
Police departments all over the country now fear the phone, while at the same time relying on the same footage captured when in the courtroom because it will inevitably be subpoenaed because it contains evidence.
Celebrities no longer sign autographs because the value of that has been dwindled down to a hashtag, nametag, and 22 “likes” on a picture. It’s pathetic.
Yet here we are, spending hundreds of dollars per month to have access to something that we loathe. Too many conversations of mine have been interrupted by blinking phones that triggers brief hysteria in the owner because it could be a life-changing alert. Nope. It’s just someone letting them know they disagreed with their earlier Facebook post regarding body-cameras on police officers.
I’m also not going to sit here and act like I just answered my phone by flipping it open: I own an iPhone and it is rarely not within arms reach of me no matter what I am doing. I’m guilty of interrupting conversations, or simply not paying attention to them because there is something going on in the digital world that is exponentially more important at that very moment. Anything to take me away from here, I guess.
I notice it more and more now.
Because of my job, I basically just talk to people for a living, and in that, I read body language. It helps lead me to new questions. It helps me to later tell the story truthfully. But even most of my interviews are over the phone because people can do that. Oh, what a double-edged sword.
I tried to implement a silent time in the home that I share with my girlfriend. Where if we were watching a movie together, or eating dinner at the dining room table, we weren’t allowed to look at our phones. It’s amazing how conversations develop because of that, and it’s amazing that a generation following mine may not understand that living in the moment is so much better than trying to escape it.
The thing that makes me continue to love writing, though, is that I know what I write is fresh. It’s new to me, and I haven’t read about it before. I try to present that to readers, and I hope I do a good job because I’ve got all my eggs in this basket. The reason I still write, and will probably always write, is because I know there are stories to tell and I know that I can be the person to tell them. I can do it well. I can do it honestly. I believe that there will always be space for words, even if those words are chopped down to accommodate a larger photograph. I’ll provide the picture, if needed. !