Great Literature in 140 Characters: The Poetry of Social Networks
Many of the social media savvy run into the assertion that social media is somehow destroying literature, culture, and communication. One claim in particular comes up quite often: that nothing of real substance can be communicated in such a brief format. However, the brilliant Tali Krakowsky of Creativity Online's On Design blog offers an optimistic and literate view of social networks that brings Shakespeare and Basho into the fray. "If we allow ourselves to look more optimistically into what the brief communication format of social networking could bring," she states, "then Twitter's 140 character question 'What's happening?' might take on a much more poetic and meaningful cultural role."
Krakowsky argues that the poetic forms of both sonnets and haiku follow extremely strict character and line structures - not unlike the 420 characters of a Facebook post. Even more compelling is a comparison of haiku - a Japanese poetic form which was popularized in the West by the writers of the Beat generation - to Twitter's strict character limit. "The brief, simultaneous, immediate nature of haiku offers a spectacular alternative to the morbid perspective on the extermination of language through social networking and new media," Krakowsky cites.
Another example of literature that uses brevity as a stylistic tool is the modern movement of micro-fiction or hyper fiction- complete stories told in significantly less than 300 words, sometimes as short as six words.
For all those who scoff at the literary possibilities of stories told in so few characters - or in a Tweet, for that matter - YouJustGetMe presents the winner of a Flash Fiction contest that has been traveling anonymously around the Internet for a few years. It perfectly illustrates that sometimes seventeen words is all you need:
The World's Shortest Horror Story: The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door.
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