Tue. May 17th, 2022

In an age where stories are shared everywhere and people post their intimacies on social media that can say that everyone really owns these stories. Every time you post on Facebook, does it not just disappear into the universal consciousness, to be earned on, safe but not obsessed? It depends on who you are asking and whether you are the poster or the reader, the content provider or the consumer.

Social media gives everyone a voice. Everyone can now cure their own image, encumbered with the perceptions of others in reality (this is exacerbated by lockdown where we only see each other online). Everyone can write their own story and speak their own truth. The huge downside of this is that our heads are cluttered with ticker-tape considerations, opinions, and life stories about people we hardly know.

Social media gives everyone a voice.

Social media gives everyone a voice.Credit:Istock

The content on social media is titanic; it fills a lot in the consciousness of everyone online. The effect of one’s inner life is a sense of overwhelm, which is why many writers (and increasingly journalists) avoid social media. How can one be quiet in oneself when we are bombarded with other people’s mind-boggling mess served to us on a bottomless feed on social media?

Equally important for many writers is that the compulsive control of social media creates a distraction that makes it impossible to get any work done. When I wrote my novel, I logged off of all social media, and it was amazing how much space was left for quiet, wandering ponderings. The irony is that in order to sell the published novel, one has to jump back on social media and become Dorland in self-promotion.

But because social media has researched itself into every corner of our lives and for many people, this is where life is lived, it has obviously become a topic for many writers. Even just from a truthful point of view, you probably need to have your characters on social media somehow. And because social media reveals and reinforces human folly like no other actor, it’s too tempting for novelists to ignore.

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My generation (X) is the last one who has not come of age in the internet age, and one day we will be the only guardians of all that is past: letter writing, brick-heavy encyclopedias, hour-long landline calls and posting remnants under backpacks.

I often regret the silence and privacy of the pre-internet age. There was dignity in its estimation – the knowledge that not everything had to be shared and that there were large areas of life about which one probably could not have an opinion. I regret how the internet seems to have broken into the concept of an inner life, turned it upside down and shown off its underpants. How it is going to play out for relationships and politics remains to be seen. It’s something for novelists to explore.

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