A.S. Byatt: “I’m terrified of accidentally tweeting.”
I stumbled across this interview that The Guardian did with A.S. Byatt a few years ago.
In much of the interview, she discusses the difficulties of communicating reality when reality is, more often than not, filled with the mundane. Within that discussion, she talks about the blogosphere, Facebook, and Twitter, and I find some of this fascinating because her mindset is so foreign to me.
And then of course, the other thing there is, and I’m a bit old for it because I’m terrified of it, is the blogosphere. And the blogosphere tells you, mostly, exactly how everybody resembles you—or I somehow imagine it does. The blogosphere is a kind of attempt at self-definition.
And things like Facebook. I mean the word Facebook is very, very interesting—I’ve only just had this thought—because it means it’s a mirror. You’re actually looking for a mirror. And you need a mirror because you haven’t got a picture. You need a mirror to tell you who you are. And this could produce novels about extremely fantastic reality or precisely observed social reality. But I think most of the people who talk about reality don’t really understand how difficult it is to say what reality is.
Q: What about Twitter? Do you see yourself tweeting?
I’m terrified of accidentally tweeting. Why do people want to Twitter? Why can’t they just be quiet? Nobody is quiet anymore. You don’t go in the streets and see anybody silently walking along thinking. And several times I’ve gone on the street and thought, “This woman is absolutely insane. She’s pushing this child along in this push chair, and she must be completely mad because she’s shrieking.” And then you realize she’s talking on one hand with a mobile phone and pushing her child with the other hand. In many ways, people do look happier than they did when I was young when they couldn’t talk to anybody as they were walking. I have to say they look happier. A lot more of them I’m quite sure are getting killed on pedestrian crossings. I’m sure it’s a religious matter. You only exist if you tell people you’re there.
Q: So Twitter and Facebook is the new God?
Yes. But I can’t write that novel because I’m too old.
Byatt then goes on to explain the type of novel she’d like to see on that subject.
It’s an interesting 9 minute interview—most of it about self-definition—that I’d suggest you watch if you’re interested in Byatt.
My quick take: Byatt, like Jonathan Franzen, seems too detached from social media to really share a significant observation on it. Her short take on blogging alone reads like she’s only seen personal blogs from 10 years ago in which people talk about their trip to the zoo or a baseball game. I think the best bloggers are the ones who have something worthwhile to share with their readers—and their motives in sharing have nothing to do with ego or self-worth.
And her take on Twitter sounds about like what my opinion of Twitter was 5 years ago before I joined. It is what you make of it. For me, it’s been a great resource for connecting with other bloggers, other book and sports people, and staying informed on news. Twitter is at least 10 minutes faster than the national or local news. I can almost promise you that. And if it’s news you care about—like, for instance, the fact that a tornado is roaring toward your neighborhood—ten minutes is a major deal.
So I’ll just say Byatt’s take on blogging and “twittering” seems uninformed at best. However, I do think she is on to something when she agrees that Twitter and Facebook are “the new god.” People, myself included, tend to spend too much time on social media. We give it too much weight in our lives. It’s an idolatry of sorts. Interesting thought.
So what do you think about Byatt’s take on social media?
Head over to The Guardian to see the full interview.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)