The Death of Words

As I write this, I can’t help but think of “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

I’ve spent some time researching how to create a better blog. While I’d much rather spend time on crafting the best novel I can, I know it’s important to keep the blog up. Not just keep the blog up but to write interesting things, attract followers, and so on and so on. I’m confident that everyone that blogs knows that attracting new followers is a big thing. While I can write, marketing and selling has never really been my thing.

So, I’ve turned to the experts. By that, I mean, the Internet. Seems like the right place to go in this case.

I’ve never been an early adapter. I like taking risk (like jumping out of airplanes) but new technologies, not so much. Let’s just say when I was a kid, my dad bought the family a Betamax, convinced it was the perfect purchase. If you don’t know what that last phrase means, you should Google it for fun. I come to this blogging thing a bit late. In large part because I really don’t have anything interesting to say and also because when I ghost blogged, I learned how easy it can be to lose control of original content. And how hard it can be to get it back.

Late to the party, the experts have shown me that blogging is kind of over. Not dead, per se. Just passe. It’s all about You Tube stars (vloggers and people doing crazy stuff). Please. I can barely summon the courage to do this blog. I’m supposed to put my face to it?

Other advice has consisted of including gifs – or at the very least, pictures – within the text to break-up the monotonous chore of reading. No one wants to see too much text without pretty pictures apparently. Not to be obnoxious, but I can’t think of the last novel I read that included pictures, even YA novels. There’s also the ever popular listicle (a completely interesting word on so many levels). I have no problems with the list format as a method of writing and disseminating information. I worry, though, that it doesn’t improve my writing.

What really worries me is that the shift to these styles of communication and media (since vlogging isn’t exactly writing) is that it isn’t helping us as readers. I’ve gotten used to Twitter shorthand and now accept the fact that questionable spelling and grammar are necessary, required even, because of the 140 character limit. But when I’m getting advice like “stick a picture in there so your readers don’t have to read so much,” I get concerned that as a society, we’re failing ourselves.

Pictures on a cooking blog or a DIY blog make sense. If you’re giving me instructions on how to re-roof my house by myself, a couple of diagrams and pictures, even gifs, might prove useful. Of course, if you’re able to explain it clearly and I get it and can then do it without pictures, you’re an awesome writer. However, I feel that no one is that awesome, so again, pictures seem necessary.

But on a blog that’s sort of about writing? Or, let’s be real here, nothing in particular? I kind of feel like that says that I, the writer, doesn’t trust you, the reader, to fill it in. That I don’t think you can figure out what I’m trying to describe. Doesn’t that mean I’m not such a great writer? Shouldn’t I be able to create that image for you in your mind’s eye? Or worse, does it mean that I think that you, the reader, lack the critical reading skills to figure out what I’m saying so I just say, “Fuck it. I’ll throw a picture in here, just in case you don’t have that ability”?

What does this say about the experts that advise me to do this? Yes, I know, I went to the Internet for advice, so I kind of get what I deserve. And, also, I do know there is the giraffe picture on this blog. But it’s one picture. At the end of a post. And it’s a great picture of a giraffe.

I worry this means that we, as a collective group, are watching the death of the written word as a form of communication. Not just in terms of sharing stories, but in terms of sharing ideas, information, and even history. I know a picture is worth a thousand words, but what about when you don’t have a camera handy. A rarity these days, for sure, but it can and does happen. And then what? What happens when we lose the ability to describe something without a snazzy gif? How will that change things? How will that change how we communicate in any form?

 

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