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From the Writer's Desk: Redefining writing on the internet

Senior Staff Writer

Published: Friday, March 29, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 18:08

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, these are but a few of the places where anybody can post their thoughts for the world to see. In our world, people are increasingly consuming writing via electronic means, and not just on social media platforms like those listed above. People are also increasingly reading the news off websites and news apps, consuming media in the form of webcomics and blog posts. Books are still getting reupholstered into ever increasingly popular ebooks, or for tablets in general. The sheer amount of information available is staggering. So what’s a budding writer to do in this brave new world?
There’s a school of thought that writing on the Internet, blogging, cartooning – aren’t as “good” as traditional books. I don’t believe that’s true. Funny enough, I don’t think that the advent of the Internet has affected the quality of what is considered “good” writing. There are plenty of places online to find genuinely insightful, cleverly humorous and overall entertaining and interesting writing. Stylistically, yes, writing on the Internet is often done differently than writing in print. However, I find that Internet writing just as easily captures that which draws readers to print writing. I’ve seen blog posts that are emotionally eloquent and equally expressive. I’ve read long-form articles written with better flow than short stories I’ve read in my English classes. There are webcomics that have not only brought tears of laughter to my eyes, but also caused a lump in my throat with surprising poignancy.

I think it’s time that writing is redefined to definitively include these genres. Writing is the conveyance of the human condition, and it can be displayed in many ways. “Hyperbole and a Half” is a blog that makes us laugh with tales about the ridiculousness of life. “Penny Arcade” is a webcomic that finds a readership in nerddom, publishing strips about the funny side in gaming but also more serious ones about being a parent gamer, or a woman in the gaming industry. Similarly, The Verge has fantastic long-form articles about technology and culture.

Like it or not, technology has changed the way we must look at writing. Lengthy writing like those mentioned before shares some qualities with traditional writing, but what about the art behind a good tweet or Facebook status update? Given that a tweet has quite a significant cap on length, it’s all the more admirable that certain Twitter handles have picked up the amount of followers they have without any prior fame. I’m not saying Horse_ebooks is the next Hemingway, but maybe there is a method to the madness. They may not be as great as Hemingway’s alleged six-word short story (“For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”) But maybe there’s a takeaway.

Good writing can be short and sweet, and it can be long and bitter. It can come in the form of a novel, a comic, a movie or anything in between. The writers of today aren’t the Lost Generation of the 1920s. But what they are is a new generation, valiantly taking part in the exponential cultural, social and technological growth our society is experiencing. And for that, they ought to be celebrated.


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