I am sick of Facebook. I’m tired of its cutesy messages. I don’t want to celebrate the fact that Rudolf Valentino and I have been friends for 3 days. Nor do I want reports on the number of “likes” my comments receive in a week. Frankly, Facebook, I don’t give a damn.
I post my blogs on social media because I must write. The compulsion is one I share with every author, great and not so great. (Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2013.) But unlike Willa Cather, Charles Dickens, or Maya Angelou, nothing I’ve written has gone viral and I don’t expect it to.
According to writer Clive Thompson, going viral Is shorthand to describe “…casinos of quantification, designed to constantly tell us what’s blowing up and what isn’t… If lots of people are paying attention to something, we figure it’s worth our notice, too.” (“Antisocial Media,” by Clive Thompson, Wired, November 2017, pg. 46.) A writer who courts numbers, as Thompson points out, must flatten her or his thoughts to find the common denominator, writing which can leave a work “panderingly dull.” (Ibid, pg. 46.)
Thompson may sound like an elitist, but he isn’t. If everyone is “doing it, saying it, thinking it,” the human brain gets bored and seeks novelty. So what, in fact, is the point of going viral Or getting lots of smiley faces? I doubt Facebook knows. All it can do is count.
Rob Beschizza, a coder, has created a new public blog site: txt.fyi. He wanted a space “…where people could publish their thoughts without any false game of social manipulation, one-upmanship, and favor-trading. “ (Ibid, pg. 46.) He doesn’t monitor the blogs, but on one occasion, while tracking a “bug,” he discovered a series of letters someone wrote to a deceased relative. He was touched by them. (Ibid, pg. 46.)
The idea touched me as well. What a beautiful way to immortalize a loved one who has died: to launch our memories of them through the internet’s time and space, the way NASA hurls capsules of music and words into the galaxy, knowing nothing of their destinations – a pure statement of being to an indifferent universe.
That’s how I think about my blogs, too. Capsules thrown up at the stars…futile yet hopeful someone will find them and understand.
(Originally published 11/9/17)