Part of the difficulty of online narratives (memes, the-hashtag-of-the-hour etc) is that they only make sense if you actively keep up. My Twitter feed, for example, is not something to be dipped into lightly; if I don’t keep refreshing and reading every 15 minutes, I’ll never be able to keep up with what everyone is getting outraged about.
In part, I’ve justified this to myself as being a part of my “job”, in the loosest definition of the word. I
am was (cf.) paid, in part, to know what is going on in the world, so it made sense to have Twitter on one of my two screens at all times; I don’t even have to refresh the window–Twitter just conveniently tells me that there are 128 tweets that have accumulated in the past 7 minutes.
In recent weeks, however, I’ve actively disconnected. I’ve disabled notifications on all social media. I’ve stopped reading the news obsessively. After years of being a news junkie, I’ve finally come around to the point of view that Aaron Swartz espouses in this essay.
But if that’s [the uselessness of CNN’s minute-by-minute coverage] true on a scale of minutes, why longer? Instead of watching hourly updates, why not read a daily paper? Instead of reading the back and forth of a daily, why not read a weekly review? Instead of a weekly review, why not read a monthly magazine? Instead of a monthly magazine, why not read an annual book?
The truth is, it doesn’t matter. We all suffer from confirmation bias–which is another way of saying that sharing all my well-thought-out pithy comments about Gazan children is not going to change your mind. Probably.
Sitting here in the slipstream of polemic and gore, with one finger repeatedly pulling down to refresh, is just depressing. And it’s probably bad for your health, too.
2. Sad as hell
A review of Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story; but also, an indictment of our increasingly technology-dependent lives. Predictable, yes — we are glued to our phones, we have forgotten how to be alone, or to form our own thoughts, we’re reduced to endlessly refreshing our Facebook news feed rather than think for thirty seconds.
And yet, it has some beautiful sentences, especially in the first eight paragraphs, before the actual book review begins.
It feels like tedious work to be merely conversationally competent. I make myself schedules, breaking down my commute to its most elemental parts and assigning each leg of my journey something different to absorb: podcast, Instapaper article, real novel of real worth, real magazine of dubious worth. I’m pretty tired by the time I get to work at 9 AM.
I shared this earlier this week on Facebook, and I repeat, if there’s one thing you read this week, make it this piece by Dani Shapiro on the art of the memoir, and how we’re at risk of confusing the act of description (our every day status updates) with the act of reflection.
We live in a time in which little is concealed, and that pressure valve—the one that every writer is intimate with—rarely has a chance to fill and fill to the point of explosion. Literary memoir is born of this explosion.
Bits, bobs & funnies
Then again, I’m the sort of person who added this to her Diwal-birth-mas wish-list.
The Favourites List is a somewhat irregular (usually weekly) roundup of things I’ve enjoyed reading. Expect some fiction, long-form writing, travel, food, technology. I usually link to free content, but occasionally to items behind a paywall (because I think paying for quality content is awesome!).