Why share poems on social media?
Perhaps it seems a little strange that Ruth and I are quite so intent on writing for this site and sharing it on our social media channels. In particuarly, why would we want to share pieces of poetry which won’t get a huge audience, or obscure essays about architecture in Manchester?
The reason has to do with our sense of consumption. In modern Western society we constantly consume. We buy clothes, order food, stream Netflix, absorb YouTube, receive notifications, scroll through images and updates of the lives of others.
These days, comparisons abound between contemporary society and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four, but it is actually Aldous Huxley’s dystopian vision which has been born out in much of the world: consumption as pacification and distraction. It feels sometimes, like the characters in Brave New World, that we are bred for consumption, made to use up products and resources so that we’ll keep the economy going.
There is nothing inherently wrong with consumption. It’s necessary of course to consume a certain amount of resource to meet one’s basic needs. But what we experience today is consumption as a lifestyle, a type of compulsory consumption. All we have are the messages to consume more, and no apparent alternativec
This constant consumption leads me to feel passive in my own life, often like it happening to me, rather than through me. Consistently consuming and receiving puts us in the back seat, so that we’re just cruising along letting the bright lights and pretty screens wash over us.
In view of this, sharing our writing is a small way of redressing this imbalance in our lives. It’s about creating, not just consuming. It’s a small act of actively producing something and putting it out into the world. We aren’t as interested in traffic and pageviews as creating the content that we want to create. Writing and sharing reclaims a bit of the agency we have lost in the all consuming vision of Huxley’s prophetic novel.
The notion of “sharing” on social media has come to take on a certain competitive edge. Whenever we post a photo or click share, we feel that we are nominating ourselves for comparison against everyone who will see us. The only way to get around this is to learn to not care about the reception of what you post. Or at least not fixate on likes and pageviews.
The apparent competition of sharing on social media could be reframed as invitation. I don’t share what I write because I think it’s better than something produced by someone else. In sharing our creations, we can encourage others to do the same, as if to say, “here’s something I made, how about you?”
After all, the internet was originally hailed as a profoundly democratic tool, through which all users would be able to share opinions, engage in public debate, contribute something in the general discourse.
Yet in many ways, the internet has become a place where we go to consume, not to contribute. We’re left with just the angriest, loudest voices on show and skewed picture of what humanity is like.
In short, I write because I like to write, and we (Ruth and I) share because we want to redress the imbalance of consumption that we feel in our lives.
Fittingly, no one may pay much attention to this short blog piece, but again that’s not the point. It’s part of our small contribution, and with a little hope it may encourage others to contribute, too.