I stumbled on this article yesterday that discussed women in Afghanistan who are literally risking their lives to write poetry. It’s a really incredible movement – poetry as political rebellion. (If you click through to the original New York Times article, that’s also worth a read).
Anyway, in the course of the article, the author said something that caught my attention:
“Voice. This is what poetry offers that makes it worth dying—and living—for. Perhaps only those without a voice can truly understand this power. How could we whose voices are amplified to deafening decibels—by the Facebooks, the Twitters, the blogs, the Internets, the cell phones, the texts, the reality shows, the Good Reads, the “like” buttons, the “dislike” buttons, the comments—understand the death-defying power poetry has to offer a life-giving voice?”
I think she makes a good point – we are glutted with information and words, words, words. Words are cheap in the West. But I wonder how many of those shouting on Facebook and Twitter and the interwebs actually feel heard. I don’t mean in any way to diminish the plight of Afghan women, whose lives have been shattered by war, and who live in conditions of poverty unimaginable in the US, but I wonder if we have this one thing in common: none of us feel heard, they because they are not permitted to speak, and we because we are drowned out by the din of modern life.
I know when I lived in the FunHouse, surrounded by friends and community, I had little use for facebook and other forms of social media. It wasn’t until a couple of my housemates started pouring themselves into coursework (and thus had less time for socializing) that I finally joined facebook. And it wasn’t until we were unceremoniously booted out of the house that I started blogging. I specifically remember that I started blogging because I felt lonely. I wasn’t being heard anymore.
Part of it was geographical – I was physically farther away from all my friends than I had been in ten years. And this is common in our world, isn’t it? Long gone are the days when mostly everyone you knew died within a few counties of where they were born. Friends shift in and out of our life, chasing after love or adventure or the shifting economy. I wonder if Facebook feels like an anchor for those friendships; a way of keeping them close even though we can’t hang onto them in the flesh.
Part of it was scheduling – I was working like crazy, or comatose in the summer vacation crash, and traveling even half an hour to visit friends down the road (my closest friends, geographically) was just too much to wrangle more than once a week, if that. This is common too – more and more people have to take extra jobs, extra shifts, longer hours just to make ends’ meet. Facebook and Twitter are a way to at least digitally wave hello to the people I don’t have time to actually see and cultivate in person.
I know Facebook, Twitter, and other social media get a lot of flack for making our communications more superficial, but I wonder if this is a chicken and egg thing? Maybe Facebook and Twitter aren’t what’s creating the superficiality. Maybe it’s that our whole social system has come to revolve around forces that don’t encourage the personal time or geographical stability necessary for intimacy, and Facebook and Twitter are just the bandaids we use to feel like we still have friends in our sights during those times when we can’t keep them literally in our sights.
Anyway. Just thinking out loud.