Zora Reading
Zora Neale Hurston reading

There’s something magical about writing and sharing the inner workings of your mind instantly. That’s how it works in the digital space. We’re constantly sharing, breathing new life into old words. Yet, at the same time there’s a fleeting feeling.

Another case of police brutality…write a think piece.

Another person says something racist…write a think piece.

Another person does something sexist…write a think piece.

I’ve actually come to hate think pieces. I can’t help but feel like a rat on a wheel. There’s this constant spinning motion pushing you to stay writing, stay hitting that publish button in hopes of likes or some monetary gain. I’ve heard it referred to as “feeding the beast.” The internet is never satisfied. What’s popular today is gone tomorrow, almost as if it never existed. Old suddenly takes on new meaning. Content often focuses on who can break it faster and hinders most real possibilities of in-depth analysis or nuanced discussions.

Everyone must ride the wave. Or be deemed nonexistent.

I’ve often wondered how potent their words would have been if Langston Hughes or Zora Neale Hurston spent hours on Facebook and Twitter instead of penning poems and writing books. Perhaps they would have gained a “following.”

Yet, would we value their work the same? Would their words have been added to the endless stream of brilliant yet easily discardable “latest posts?” Would we still value their time?

The problem with digital writing is there is nothing to hold on to. It’s not the same feeling as having a physical book or magazine. It’s digital, cloud based, and light like air. Thereby making digital writing feel temporary, like a fleeting gust of wind.

Though nothing ever really disappears on the internet, the quick natured environment of digital communication makes important dialogue get quickly discarded in exchange for the latest controversy.

Everyone feasts upon it, dining on every piece, tearing apart every strip. Then, on to the next one. Lack of substance becomes reality. Quick witted pseudo scholars, psychologists and self help gurus dominate droves of gullible minds simply because they’ve found the key to social media. They’ve learned to ride, even manipulate the waves.

Even with well meaning publications, writing becomes another day, another click bait. Always striving to be ahead of the page view curve makes substance secondary. Everyone is striving to be memorable without memory.

Where do we go from here?

How do we deal with the issue of disappearing words? (The fleeting times, the missed moments, the badly deconstructed ideas, and the incessant desire to be noticed.)

There are no real answers to this question. Perhaps our only choice is to be inventive: push the limits, dig, write, erase, write again, breakdown, and build up in ways that haven’t been done before. Maybe then, our words will serve more as a reference point than some random page, that once was skimmed and forgotten.

Nevertheless, we will do what writers do. We’ll keep writing, hoping the digital swindlers leave enough room for us to make an impact before our words disappear.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com.
To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

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7 thoughts on “Disappearing Words: Writing In The Digital Space”

  1. Very reflective piece! I think writers from the past probably would have enjoyed social media but they would have faced a lot of distractions, which probably would have affected their work. Current writers are going to have to find balance between the fast pace of the net and writing substantial work.

  2. Thank you for this piece. Archivist are always discussing the impact of digital media on not only what we produce but also the long-term affects of writing in the digital space. I know some authors, like Toni Morrison for example, who refrain from both writing in the digital space and even responding to email messages for some of the very reasons that you examine in your audio post. Thank you!

  3. We have entered an age of ROR (Relevance Over Reverence).
    There can be no detachment from which to write about this present crisis of reverence. Today’s misrepresentation of reverence is simply self, socially attached to floating instances of hurried me—too often, trapped hot air passed as a fix, from which we are supposed to feel that we are part of ‘the trending’ clicks—relevance over reverence. The insurance on today’s relevance: for now and for no other time. With content lacking valued thoughtfulness, originality, and candor – demanding readers are unable to digest both words and writer. Tomorrow is just too far into the future for some writers to write with heart and mind focused on reverence. However, future effects via technology are unpredictable. We are not done yet. You are right Jessica, we have to “…push the limits, dig, write, erase, write again, breakdown, and build up in ways that haven’t been done before.”

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