I’ve been kind of busy recently scheming my way into the malevolent and rapid fire, tiny attention span, world of social media. People used to talk about 5 minute attention spans, but I feel strongly that the future lies in the 5 second attention span… For good or ill. Thoughts and words flash across the screen. Pithy 140 character anecdotes stream out, missing punctuation and the semblance of meaning. Semiotic chunder into one ear and out the other, a small half smile and you’ve forgotten it. A fish in its tank re-discovering a cave, over and over again.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m not bemoaning the disintegration of society or the change of grammar or the focus on quick reward. I don’t have much truck for the attitude that things are getting worse or that society has gone to the dogs or that things were better in those golden olden days.
If you asked a Norman what he thought about the future he’d have probably told you that the younger generation had no respect and were ruining the language and generally running about stabbing people.
Did you know that the east end in the blitz far from being a knees up round the piano, salt of the earth, comradeship we all draw together wonderland was a land of feral, bombed out kids, looting the jewellery out of next door’s house. Kids in the fifties were heavily engaged in knife crime and territorial gangs were a big deal. They don’t tell you that in the history books.
Nah, things are about as shit or in my opinion, as good as they ever were, but the key thing is that as much as things stay the same they also change. Don’t listen to the idiots that tell you that books, prose or specifically reading, are dying out. There is more reading now and more need to read than ever, the Internet has totallly reaffirmed the value of literacy.
And with literacy comes transience. New meanings for old words. New ways of writing, new ways to yap, beat your chest and generally proclaim I am here.
So Blogs aren’t getting read so much, but self-important characters like myself are getting our message out lazely in those 140 character bursts. We’ve got hash tags to replace our hash cakes and we’ve got growing numbers of follows to heap on our piles of gibberish.
I think if an alien came down from space or if our world as we know it ended and in 500 years time, when the fallout cleared and historians were digging about for meaning, they would have a damn hard time trying to filter through the infinite pile of words to try to get a picture of what was going on. What are the important texts and how do you make sense of it? Hmm there is much more to say about this. Something Google or Facebook would define as all of us creating our own important texts out of our own social context, our relations to our friends (both real, virtual and extended). The individual defining their reality….. But I’m not going to write about it now, not least because typing this out on my mobile phone is taxing my thumbs and also making my thoughts even less coherent than usual… But what I do want to say is that I think I endorse this democratisation of writing. Perhaps there are no important texts and even better, I very much I like the idea of historians, aliens, plumb baits and change-haters alike, being extremely confused.