There is no doubt that the technological advances of recent years have revolutionised writing in a way that has not been seen since the invention of the printing press. A swipe and two clicks on my phone can instantly get me the news from any number of journalistic sources. Click 'buy now' and you can instantly have the next bestselling novel on your Kindle or iPad. Scrolling down a Facebook newsfeed brings you news from everywhere, from the mainstream media to the small, local stories that are going viral.
Many people have protested that this new ease with which people can access, and even produce, their reading material must be detrimental to the quality of the literature we are reading. Anyone can now make their own blog, self-publish a novel on Amazon, and increasingly, become a contributor to relatively well-read news sites like Buzzfeed. Indeed competition with the likes of Buzfeed has seen once reputable news sources like The Independent now producing similar kinds of click-bait, quick-hit journalism, whose comments sections are not infrequently riddled with complaints about grammar, spelling and a generally poor quality of writing.
However, these arguments are futile. Whatever we think about the state of writing in the online sphere, it is clearly here to stay, and the evolution of what we read will inevitably come as a result. The same media companies are using social media to make our reading experiences collaborative and interactive through community posts. While some may tire of numbered lists offering 32 reasons that cats are amazing, there is another way to look at the changes that have occurred.
The ability to write online has made writing so much more accessible for thousands of aspiring authors and journalists. Yes this has equally made the environment more competitive but with the spread of social media all it takes is a budding writer who is also a little market-savvy to be able to target their work to an audience of hundreds of people - before they would have been lucky to be published in their local paper. Equally the ability to self-publish has allowed hundreds of writers to get work into a public sphere they would never have otherwise reached. Community posts may not be high quality reporting but, when used in the right way, can give us insight into the experiences of groups that may not otherwise have been heard. This leads to the most important point in that, being so accessible, the online sphere has given a platform to all kinds of minority or oppressed groups. Think of sites like Everyday Feminism or even the way news articles now trend with stories hashtagged 'blacklivesmatter' showing a much more diverse array of content and writing than the opinions that are presented in more traditional modes of media.
Like all change, the ability mass-produce writing online has given us both positives and negatives. That cannot be denied. But, with so much more choice in what we can read, and any number of platforms on which we can also choose to write; how can we claim this revolution in writing to be a bad thing?
So stop complaining about clickbait and Buzzfeed lists, because if it weren't for the internet, I couldn't have written this and you wouldn't be reading it.
Image courtesy Nicola via Flickr