There's a pretty popular argument out there concerning social media versus literature. Before we begin, let me explain I write, read, and use social media. Check out around the site - there are tons of icons for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (which I might use for a hangout one of these days), Goodreads, Cowbird, etc.
I dig the whole social networking thing. I use it for good on most days. On others, I idle on the newsfeed. However, there's still a question I'd like to address:
Does digital rubbernecking influence you more than an actual story? Can you remember what happened on Facebook better than you can remember what happened in the last chapter of a current read?
Like Passing Notes in Class
Slap me if I'm outdated here (not really or I'll slap back), but does anyone else remember when that cute kid in your class passed you a note? Ah yes, I remember back in junior and early high school when girls would pass notes over to my desk with little sweet nothings written perfectly within the confines of college rule, though never as frequently as I would've preferred at the time.
Nowadays, we have texting, cell phones, IMs, social media, and so on. There are so many more efficient ways of sharing small snippets without facing in-school suspension. Of course, even adults pass these little notes. Part of me believes that's why we deciding texting was good idea in the first place. Don't get me started on video clips . . . .
More to point, the University of Warwick and the University of California, San Diego produced a study which claims Facebook is more memorable than books. According to the study:
"Our findings might not seem so surprising when one considers how important both memory and the social world have been for survival over humans' ancestral history. We learn about rewards and threats from others. So it makes sense that our minds would be tuned to be particularly attentive to the activities and thoughts of people and to remember the information conveyed by them."
Now, social media information is viewed as being geared for the memory: compressed and impulsive. It's what we crave, and it's similar to how we remember someone's name. One would think this sort of gossipy nature would be quick information soon to be forgotten. Unfortunately, the study turned some heads when it was discovered people actually remember what their peers posted on their timeline better than they remember what they just read in a book.
While there's no point to write novels in tweet form or to place textbooks on Facebook, it is interesting to see how such watered-down bits of often localized information is the kind of communication we've been longing for. Consider the reason 19th Century literature bored you to death in school (or even older texts). We've striven so long to create complex, well-written, full-view books of what we know. As I've always said, anything you need to know is written down somewhere. I guess I never figured Facebook would be the index to search.
Whatever the case, we remember Facebook posts and tweets a lot better than sentences of a book or faces of our acquaintances.
Also Like Passing Notes in Class
Facebook is akin to passing notes in class, as I mentioned before.
With the need for impulsive content, there's a higher chance of useless knowledge spreading than useful knowledge. It's the difference between learning some science and hearing some dirt about that person you envy, albeit because all their shared content depicts a life more adventurous and awesome than yours. I'll admit you can consume and retain Facebook information better, but does that mean Facebook wins this war?
I'll make you a deal: Go read an entire newsfeed for the same amount of time it would take you to finish a book. Then finish a book. Tell me what you remember the most of, and then tell me which one helped you out or made you feel better.
Actual do this, and I'll throw a gift your way.
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.