Thursday, December 3, 2015

How Social Media Changed The Way We Read Books

The boundary between author and readers is disappearing. What does that mean for the future of storytelling?

Last week, during a dwindling work day, I scrolled through Twitter for something to engage me, something newsworthy or pithy or both. I felt drawn to the sort of tweet that was neither hackneyed nor too intimate, neither click-baity nor dry. After all, I’d curated a list of Twitter accounts that more or less pandered to my precise interests. News sites that specialize in deep dives into the uncanny, authors who manage to employ their style in 140-character observations.
Instead -- and I’m sure you’ll relate to this painful experience -- what I got was a rash of strangely dogmatic tweets from an author I like, Joyce Carol Oates. “This is sad,” the National Book Award-winning author wrote, “Please consider ‘fostering’ these orphans ... ” Embedded in the tweet is another tweet from @citykitties, and a link to adult cats in need of owners.
“God,” I wrote a coworker. “Joyce Carol Oates is everyone’s most condescending friend.” What I meant was that this type of tweeting -- sharing something tragic yet too specific to be engaged with meaningfully in quick, offhand conversation -- was uncomfortable to read. What I didn’t say was that I was confused and bothered by the dissonance between the words I was used to reading under her name, and the words she proliferated daily.


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