Friday, August 26, 2022

words and the world


This morning, as I was lying in bed, half awake and trying to decide if I should just start the day or sleep another couple of hours,  I found myself thinking about words and media, about literature and books and all the ways we take in information now.  Also the nature of that information, particularly when it seems all is possible and there is an outlet for everyone. How it can be misused and handled badly.  How the good has a sturdy platform, but also the bad. 

When I was a teenager and young adult, the world touted the danger of televisions..of the downfall of reading and literate culture. It seemed inevitable.  Even among people my age, not all were readers, which was strange to me, having had books in my hand since before I even understood what was in them.  The same child who scribbled in notebooks and said I was writing when I barely knew the alphabet. The Mother Goose volume I carried around until it fell apart despite not being able to do much beyond read the pictures to discern the story unless I convinced my mother to read it to me.

My parents, especially my dad, who were only high school graduates, were still readers.  My mom liked stories and painting, but her reading was mostly magazines. Still, words were something always available in some form. Whether it was mags and novels passed off from my aunt (one of the most prolific readers in the family) or our weekly trips to the library, books were just always present.  My dad read the newspaper daily, and books about everything--not just novels. No one read poetry of course,  or maybe even knew people were writing it, but words in general were not foreign. I only learned about poems in junior high and high school, though it depends on what you consider poems. We all fought over Shel Silverstein books in the 5th grade, so maybe I guess I just didn't think of them as poems but rhymes. Poets were like unicorns and outside of some teens who wrote poems and professor, I didn't see a real poet until my second year of undergrad (in some weird confluence of stars,  I later got to publish her.)

I am not sure if any of us would have seen the internet coming, or realized that reading would actually be more important (though I suppose it depends on what you spend your time taking in.)  Most of the news I get I prefer to read since videos don't always load and I  prefer a quieter experience. Since I now make a living writing things for the internet I suppose things have turned out better than we thought. In many ways, print culture died a slow death as magazines and publishers dwindled and fell. New electronic mediums rose in their stead. As something like journalism became less sound of a career choice than something like social media marketing (even though they use many of the same skill sets.) The places I write for now, all newish concepts since the 90s.. An online learning platform. An electronic dictionary covering antiques. Neighborhood guides for a real estate site.  Lifestyle and home decor content for websites. All things that did not exist when I was 20 and pondering future career options and whether writing was a sound one.  

Hell, 20 years ago, while the internet was fast becoming a place to market and publish poetry for me, no one could see social media coming,.I guess a year or so later, I would start a blog, which was a step in that direction.  Even still, I was not on FB until 2009. I was also a late adopter of both Instagram (2017) and Twitter (2018, though I started the press one a decade ago, and auto-posted chap-related content on occasion, but I didn't spend time there myself.). Generations that came after mine supposedly had even more readers than my own due to things like Harry Potter that addicted kids early to the printed word.  These kids, the same ones I mediated fights over for the first couple books at the elementary school, they grew up, the oldest of them now coasting into their 20's, the youngest, well out of college. 

Every once in a while I fall into a bookstagram-heavy pocket of recommended reels and it seems that people are still passionate about reading, particularly genre fiction--young adult, smut, horror.  All still alive and kicking. Look at the news and I would tell you we have devolved into a idiot society of the lowest common denominator, but my social feeds show something else entirely.  A place that still clings to words..electronic or printed, but still holding on.

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