Sometimes I worry that my generation, our generation, “the Y-ers” aren’t creating anything as ‘solid’ as we wish we could. You know, those things that stick in the sand. Creative people are everywhere, that’s not changed; but the way we consume content is different and it’s more throwaway. People don’t like hearing that, especially when they’ve worked hard on something: a video, a piece of writing, an illustration that took hours. It’s bookmarked, it’s watched, then it’s binned.
The Internet brings fluidity, flexibility and instancy. We’re lazy and desperate for the new and now. Our social platforms bring huge reach, wireless fun and ideas that spread. We write blog posts, quick quips, tweets, statuses, share links without explanation. We throw stuff at each other daily. It’s virtual ping pong.
We don’t even write long texts anymore, we WhatsApp in chunks. We are shortening everything we type, summing up emotions into frivolous emojis, and explaining and expressing ourselves in little corners of the Internet. Comments that don’t matter. Noise. Clogging up our online spaces. Filtering ever so slightly as we go. We can go back and edit something we screwed up. We write things and we later delete. Deleting as we go seems more promising.
Where is our ‘work’? Where is the stuff we want to last, to be shared, to be saved for the future? The stuff we daren’t ever delete?
Are we writing or creating anything that will stick, or is it all boiled down to things that we want to read quickly on the train, or email to a friend on their lunch break? Studies say we can’t even read novels anymore; that we skim, we cheat, or we download the audio so we can carry on tweeting.
Books are being published off the back of YouTube careers, but even they are still just curated bits of content, with each page being a nugget of information from the online version: smaller chapters, bigger fonts, guidebooks, advice. Coffee table books. Stocking fillers. Urban Outfitters tills.
Michael Keaton’s character in Birdman finds himself frustrated because there’s some sort of block between him and his artistic aspirations; unable to feel satisfied. Itching. A viral clip on YouTube doesn’t fill the gap. The numbers weren’t his priority, his small and intimate audience was. Or maybe the idea of ever being truly iconic or respected. Lasting.
I can’t help but feel we need some Terry Pratchett quotes drilled into us.