This is not a post about the demise of our culture.
This is a post about the how the human brain is processing our information-infected world. And I say this as a lover of the internet and someone who still occasionally yells, “CHAARRRLEEEE! We’re on a bridge, CHAAARRRLEEEEE.” And if you don’t get that joke, you haven’t seen this yet – also you probably don’t want to click because you’ll never say the name “Charlie” normally again.
Yes, I love technology and I love our world. I adore the fact that I can get weather on my phone and that I’ll never need a newspaper to check movie times again. It’s great that I can add a book to my wish list (or get crazy and outright buy it) the second that a friend recommends it so that I don’t have to worry about forgetting the title later.
And yet… this also means that I’m wiring my brain to digest and forget the written word. It hungers for little morsels it can tear through like drive-thru cheeseburgers, not getting any lasting nutritional value and learning that the easy rewards are best, after all. Because I’m everywhere at once online when someone asks me where I read some nugget of information that I repeat a couple days later, I breezily reply, “Oh, online somewhere,” which any librarian will tell you is pretty much the worst Works Cited response ever.
In his book THE SHALLOWS Nicholas Carr investigates the rise of the internet and streaming information on how our brains process all of this material. I read this a few years ago, and I highly recommend it to everyone. You’ll re-think how you approach reading, and if you’re a social media person like myself, it’ll change the way you view these venues as well.
Today everyone has a blog, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube… you name it. Anyone can print their own clever t-shirt online, and honestly I wouldn’t want to be in the Clever T-Shirt Business because standing out on that crowd would be pretty hard. I guarantee you at the moment you are reading this, at least a couple thousand people are singing to themselves, “What Does the Fox Say?” I know I was as I brushed my teeth this morning.
How can writers compete in a world where funny one-liners get free chest display and mammal-inspired ear worms have tunneled into the brains of the best of us?
I don’t advise starting with a t-shirt that has War & Peace on it, although it would be an interesting conversational piece.
I think the answer is to just keep going, be the best we can be at what we do and ride the waves. When radio came along they said the printed word was done, when tv showed up they said radio was dead, when cable happened they said network television was sunk.
We’re still here, all of us.