“The irony of The Information Age is that it has given new respectability to uninformed opinion.” ~ Veteran reporter John Lawton speaking to the American Association of Broadcast Journalists in 1995
When I first started publishing my writing online, it was January 2017. The idea was new and scary ~ but not entirely new.
My husband knew of an editor/publisher through a mutual friend. When she heard the story of our son’s death, she wanted to meet with us about writing a book. And she wanted me to write it.
At first, I suppose it sounded glamorous. Or prestigious. But it was way too soon. I agreed to write the book because I didn’t know what I was doing ~ pretty much about anything in my life. I don’t know how long I was in shock after Joel’s death. I think shock comes and goes rather like waves. At least it did for me. I’m pretty sure I’m not in shock anymore because, as I look back on that time in my life, it’s clear to me now that many of the things I did and said lacked a great deal of maturity and perspective. Or I have no memory of them. Trying to write a book about the death of my 18 year old son with a happy, spiritualized ending was one of those things. I must admit, I worked very hard on it for 2 entire years. Two of the chapters were even sent to a designer and have completed galleys. Some of my ideas were actually pretty cool.
But for whatever reason, I simply could not make it hang together as a book.
It just stayed little stories, with little poems, little photos of my paintings (randomly placed at the end of little chapters) and other little photographs ~ vaguely connected to the little bits of my disconnected writing.
What was the conclusion of the book supposed to be? It was my life. There wasn’t going to be a nice tidy ending. It just keeps going on and on, as life does. So, even though there was no book, l finally decided to quit trying and paid my publisher the contractual fee. After all, she had spent 2 years working with me on a project that must have been hair-pullingly frustrating to her, although she never showed it.
I can’t remember how I started writing a blog. I think she might have mentioned it. At the time, I didn’t even know what a blog was. Blog: what a weird word.
About that time, people interested in my watercolor paintings started to ask me if I had a website.
Steve urged me to hire a website designer. I decided to have a section in the website showing my paintings for sale, and a separate section for my writing. My objective for sharing my writing was to use my story to help other people who had gone through a tragic death of a loved one, or some other experience so awful, they didn’t know where to turn to make it through another day.
Little did I know how much it would help me.
So, a blog is a blog…and a book is a book. I’m an avid reader and I hope people never stop writing books. Or reading them.
But as technology becomes a bigger and bigger part of our lives, it can cease to be a tool, and become an addiction. Charles Dickens’ comment in his book ‘Bleak House’ could refer to computers ~
”…but like fire and water, though excellent servants, they are very bad Masters.”
As a teacher, I really notice this change in my students. And it’s not altogether positive. For example, many of my teenage students have an attention span of about 15 minutes. Reading takes a totally different brain function than having information, accurate or not, rapidly coming at a person’s eyes on a blue screen that actually impedes the ability to sleep. Information presented with intense color, sound effects, and animation. A bombardment of stimulation. Reading a book, however, takes a certain amount of work. The brain has to actively reach out and claim the information, hold onto it and process it. I believe reading a book actually makes us smarter. And this is not to mention how the internet has affected people’s social habits, and, I believe, our ability to interact with one another in truthful, authentic relationships. Many people increasingly feel more and more alienated and lonely than ever.
It seems to me like more and more functions (or apps) on computers and personal devices, have become more multifunctional ~ adding yet another account, password and chat room function. There is absolutely no way to remember all of one’s passwords. And constant upgrades annoy me. I am not particularly interested in how or why computers work; I just want them to work.
One of the interactive apps I have very much enjoyed for about 3 years is for interior design ideas. It sells all types of products from a collection of vendors such as furniture, area rugs, light fixtures and so on, to fix up your house. It also has articles written by professional designers about paint colors, staging houses for resale, etc. I’ve done some interior design myself ~ in my house and a few other people’s. I think it’s really fun and creative. For me, it’s way easier than painting one of my watercolors! This app also has a chat room function to help other people who post photos of a problem room and ask for other people’s input. On my account, I use my real name and a profile picture so people can relate to me as a real person. Many of the other contributors use a tag line ~ such as “love shopping” or “my house” and no profile picture. I have no problem at all with people doing that. It protects their privacy. But lately, I have noticed some things people have said to one another that range from rude to absolutely vicious ~ complete with profanity.
What is happening to us? This is a little hobby app for people who like to fix up their homes and help other people with theirs. Where is this rage, impatience and even hatred for each other coming from? People saying things I highly doubt they would say if they were face to face with another person.
Maybe it comes from opinions with anonymity and the instantaneous access to deliver them without thinking.
Maybe we have forgotten it is a real human being on the other side of our computer.
Maybe it’s the irony of the Information Age.