Some of the best writing is stuck on social media. And what are we gonna do about it?
From fan fiction culture birthing best selling authors, to Youtube and Twitter creating some of today’s biggest pop stars, the world hasn’t been the same since Internet turned content production into an easier, more democratic and accessible thing.
Many of the news, and discussions shaping entertainment and science nowadays start on platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram.
Nonetheless, there’s still a good amount of stuff that don’t break the social media bubble.
While blogs have conquered a more acceptable social status as source of content and information, the same has not happened to the other platforms — and that is a bad thing.
Spaces like Twitter, Reddit, Quora, and even Youtube comment sections, host quite a big amount of knowledge and ideas that could actually be of use for those who are not there.
Many Twitter threads, Quora answers or Reddit discussions contain more depth and critical thought than a significant bunch of articles or books out there.
In the most positive scenario, the writer or the idea reverberates loud enough to get a journalist’s attention, or to earn a space for itself in a bigger outlet— that’s what happened to Instapoet Rupi Kaur, whose poetry initially was published solely through her Instagram account, later publishing many books, and being acclaimed by The New Republic as the writer of the decade.
But, in the worst cases, the content is appropriated by someone or something else, or it just never reaches a bigger audience. It can be problematic in many ways, from copyright violation to manipulation of information.
When the algorithm is not stronger than the power or the traditional gatekeepers, or when the content just doesn’t get enough likes or retweets, what’s gonna happen to these people and these stories?
For decades, many stories died unknown merely because there was nothing or no one to record them .
Telling stories has never been easier than it is now, yet many of these stories are still not taken seriously enough to be voiced out loud and occupy their deserved space in culture and history, simply because they’re being told by avatars with a funny username, in platforms that weren’t necessarily designed to host such type of content.
This is not to say we need these people to aim for printed press or publications with an ISSN, or that information is only legit if validated by individuals or corporations with a platform out of social media.
But, even if these people wanted to aim for that, would they make it? And if social media has proven so many times that it is a force to be reckoned with, why is it not taken seriously as a source or reference?
There are two directions we can move on to if we want to change this.
Firstly, we could, and we should, acknowledge social media as a legit source of content, information and reference.
This means being able to use an Instagram caption or a Reddit comment as reference for “serious matters” such as an academic article; or to see tweets and posts the same way we see blog posts or articles.
In fact, this is already starting: as much as content publishing on social media has been a part of many brand strategies for quite some time, now we see more and more publications who use social media not only for marketing purposes, but as a business model itself.
Even simple solutions, like the Thread Reader app, that unrolls Twitter threads into compiled docs, might be a good option to generate articles from tweets.
The second way to approach this is to make it easier for writers and thinkers to have their writing and ideas documented.
Of course, when it comes to science or knowledge production, it’s only natural to require a certain amount of expertise and to have standards — but, even in those fields, when the standards are too high or when the formalities are too much, it keeps a lot of knowledge to shared, or just leaves great minds unmotivated to even try to share it.
Fortunately, many journals nowadays don’t require astronomical qualifications, and many accept small contributions too.
“If it weren’t for the professional pressure to produce them as CV items, most scholarly articles and book chapters would be better as notes.
(…) So many articles I read feel like a note-sized discovery or insight dutifully inflated to 8,000–15,000 words. Writing up your idea as a note can be liberating: instead of welding the text/idea you really care about to a few others that are related, simply present your best idea, once.
(…) I might as well complete the thought and burn the bridge: if it weren’t for the fact that the book is the gold standard professionally in many humanities disciplines, most academic monographs would be better as long-ish articles. . .”
(Eric Weiskott, “Consider the note”)
Hopefully, we’ll see that energy in more fields as well.
So far, the one thing we can do is to, simply, start from ourselves to embrace our favourite writing apologetically, regardless of where it comes from.