Message in a bottle

Posting online is like a message in a bottle. We write something or post something to connect with the outside world. It's easy to write something for ourselves in a diary, or take pictures and keep them in our camera, or write down observations in a notebook. But when we do something online, we're reaching out by turning ourselves outwards, throwing something out there to see if anyone is passing by who might notice.

Years ago before social media proliferated digital, people wrote confessional, personal blogs. I used to do searches for a phrase and stumble upon someone's thoughts and struggles, and know that I wasn't alone when I had a more isolating work situation. I also "met" people online who were blogging and met some offline, and even put together the Down the Block anthology to help expand independent creators' voices. 

I don't think all the writers in the anthology (published 15 years ago) are very active online anymore. Some have become busy with their own work and offline lives so they don't care about posting online, and others have migrated to LinkedIn and social media outlets. 

Social media is immediate, and I don't think people have the patience or interest to write something longer, hoping someone will read it. The ones who do commit to writing longer articles usually have a tangible goal, to become successful in monetizing their writing or integrating it into their profession; they want their blogs/online articles to serve a purpose, to get attention that will lead to something bigger. When we put something on social media, we can get quick feedback instead of waiting to see if anyone has noticed our blog post. If you're not famous or saying compelling things on sites such as Substack, regular blogging is just throwing something out there, hoping someone will find the bottle that you threw out into the digital ocean. And on social media, when people don't get likes or comments or re-shares, they wonder if they're being heard and worry if they're connecting with friends and a larger audience. So the bottle they're throwing into the ocean is just floating, which makes some people feel anxious or rejected.

I'm probably being nostalgic, but I miss content that doesn't try to boast. I'm not saying there is no authenticity online, but it seems like various people are trying to get attention in their online (and app) posts via pictures, tweets or updates, and there's a kind of competition going on ("look at how much fun I'm having" "here's my outrageous opinion" "here's how you can maximize your click-throughs"). I've achieved what I've wanted via my online content, but I'm hardly any more popular than I was several years ago. I don't want to post to get attention, though it would be fantastic if someone higher up in the food chain would notice me, and the novel that I'd put all of my energy into and tried to go as deep as I could within a character's thoughts and feelings took off.

Because I've seen the evolution of online content (and the Web just celebrated its 30-year anniversary), I've been able to compare how it used to be with how it is today. There are some feelings I have that people have disagreed with, especially young creatives who have grown up with digital. It's not that it's all bad, but it's sort of sad about how it's become transactional and a wall of highlights, as if people are shouting from a stage "look at me!". A recent column by college student Olivia Krupp effectively articulates what the current issues are with social media. 

But the bottom line is that we can all create content instead of getting someone's permission to share our creations. The gates are open and it's not like it was for centuries, where only the privileged, well-connected, or chosen could express themselves publicly.

p.s. e-book version of my debut novel is still at Amazon, and the price for the print version has been reduced: buy at the Eckhartz Press site.

Down the Block by Margaret