Ruined or Redefined? The Internet and Writing

Written on August 30th, 2016

Lately it seems as though everyone has a blog. You don’t need any coding skills or even any money to start a website, which means owning your own corner of cyberspace has become a possibility for just about anyone with access to a computer. While the availability of the internet is awesome, sometimes I can’t help but feel nervous about how easy it is for absolutely anyone to get published.

I’ve been a word worm for as long as I can remember. As a self-proclaimed grammar enthusiast I have to admit that sometimes I can come across a bit pedantic – but it all stems from a place of genuinely valuing good writing. I care about sentence structure. I embrace unusual diction. I applaud the classics whose works have become timeless; though Ernest Hemingway and I have never occupied the space of the world at the same time, I’ve still benefitted immensely from his words. Maybe I’m stuck in the past, but I value writing traditions. There’s usually a good reason that things are tried and true.

Having grown up intentionally honing my writing skills and growing my vocabulary, I find it difficult to see people misusing words or punctuation in articles and still getting a lot of reach. I place a lot of value on following the rules of a written language (within reason for your purpose), in part because it aids clarity, and in part because it shows that effort was put into the work. If you have a question about grammar in this day and age it’s extremely easy to Google the answer, and not doing so tends to come across as lazy in my mind. Part of me longs for the selective process of traditional publishing; despite its harshness, it at least forces one to truly evaluate and edit their writing before sending it out to the world. It requires more thought than quickly typing into a WordPress text box and pressing ‘publish’ all in one swoop.

I’m embarrassed to say so, but in the name of complete honesty: sometimes I catch myself reading someone’s blog and I feel as though they don’t deserve their platform. As if they’re not a real writer because they don’t exhibit strong understanding of comma usage, as if their thoughts aren’t worth my time simply because I don’t like the way in which they are expressed, as if they really ought to go out and be more professional.

But here’s the thing: publishing my work in this way is exactly what I do, too.

Do I have more of a right to put my writing out there than anyone else? No, absolutely not. The fact that I sometimes feel like I do is a direct testament to my inherently flawed human nature. I can be snobby about comma usage and sentence structure variation, but at the end of the day I am benefitting from the accessibility of self-publishing platforms just as much as those people about whom I complain. Of course I want to believe that I am a good writer, but when it comes down to it I have never “properly” published anything. I have never profited from my work. I have never had my name on the spine of a novel on a bookstore shelf. My biggest claim to fame is a few published poems in random magazines and A’s in all my English classes… and I still frequently make mistakes. While we all like to feel proud, the truth is that I do not have a right to feel more entitled than everyone else on the internet spewing their thoughts into the abyss.

I am torn. I want to preserve the intricacies of classically good writing. I want to preach about prepositions and adverbs and paragraph flow. I want to hold the entire world to a certain standard of writing quality – but the problem is that this standard is something subjective I’ve invented. My idea of good language control is not necessarily the same as that of scholars or scientists or random people on Facebook. I do not have a right to hold everyone I know to a personal preference of the best way to string together letters and words.

And at the same time that I want to preserve age-old methods of writing, I also want to encourage creativity. I want to break the rules when it suits my whims. I want to revel in the amazing collaboration that is facilitated by the interactive nature of the Internet. I want to be a positive, open person who values everyone, who gleefully enjoys the happiness and success of others, who is able to look past her own preoccupations to see everyone as beautiful and diverse and important. I want to see the message at the heart, not just the way it’s presented. I want to be better than I am.

I think it’s natural to want to protect my passions, but I don’t have a right to judge those who I feel are tainting them. After all, I’m clearly only human myself.

At the end of the day, I see it both ways. The unfiltered and unregulated environment of the internet is double sided in how it influences modern-day writing – creativity is encouraged at the same time conventions are abandoned. And whether I like it or not, writing will only continue to evolve.

All I know is that I’ll be along for the ride.