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Is There Too Much <3 for Writers in the Blogosphere?

By Harriet Staff

Our favorite contrarian website Slate posted a thought-provoking article on the constant liking, re-tweeting, favoriting, etc. that happens whenever a social-media savvy writer releases new work. While we acknowledge that it’s a hard-knock life for writers trying to eke out an income, this article is worth considering. Jacob Silverman, editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, makes a good argument for the need for criticism in social media:

Twitter and Tumblr form the superstructure of today’s literary world. The salons and independent bookstores are disappearing, so this is where we congregate, allowing us to collapse geography at the expense of solitary thinking. This is where links are passed around, recommendations exchanged, news spread, contacts and friendships made. It is also where everyone is selling himself and where debate and dissent are easily snuffed. As litblogger Mark Athitakis recently tweeted, “Twitter defaults into an affirmation engine. It’s easier to enthuse than discuss.”

But that affirmation is the habitual gesture of the Internet. We like, favorite, and heart all day; it is a show of support and agreement, as well as a small plea for attention: Look at me, I liked this too. Follow back? On Tumblr, which has become a favorite home for writers and has taken on the role of a literary curator, promoting content and sponsoring events, dissent is engineered out of the product. “We don’t want to allow you to have your feelings hurt on Tumblr,” a company designer recently told the New York Times Magazine. David Karp, Tumblr’s founder, enthused about the site’s heart icon: “Everybody loves everybody, through the chain.”

The problem with Liking is that it’s a critical dead-end, a conversation nonstarter. It’s opinion without evidence—or, really, posture without opinion. For every “+1,” “THIS,” or “<3” we offer next to someone’s fawning tweet, a feeling is expressed without saying much at all. And in the next review or essay, it will show.

Catch the whole article at Slate.

Posted in Poetry News on Monday, August 6th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.