Can a Facebook post have the same impact as the personal essay?
“A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out.”
— Virginia Woolf
You don’t have to be a famous author and essayist like Virginia Woolf to make an impact with your words. Thanks to today’s growing social media dependency, it is possible to reach thousands — even millions — with one post or tweet. With the power of mass communication at our very fingertips, could social media be a new frontier for the personal essay?
Anyone with a desire to share their opinion is certainly looking for an accepting audience. What could be more accepting than Facebook? Social media has become a popular place for individuals from all walks of life to publicly express their opinions.
Although Facebook and Twitter occasionally become battlegrounds for celebrity feuds and political drama (hardly the best use of these platforms), these sites have redeeming qualities as well. Social media can allow ideas to be shared from one area of the globe to another. People can connect and share experiences like never before.
Consider the illuminating post by Brian Crooks, in which he discusses what it was like for him growing up as a black youth in a predominately white area of Illinois. At last count, this post was shared by over thirty thousand Facebook users. More than one hundred comments express gratitude and solidarity for Crooks and his story. It’s possible that even Crooks had not expected this amount of exposure.
With so much angst within our society today, it is not surprising to find more and more people inspired to share their stories. Publication has not always been available for every would-be essayist, thankfully, that is not the case today. No longer is the personal essay limited to “serious writers” or found only in prestigious publications.
These days, the popularity of social media provides known and unknown writers with the opportunity to share their words with virtually anyone, anywhere. The web makes it possible for lesser-known writers to gain recognition quickly by reach millions of readers in a matter of days.
Along with the freedom of speech comes the responsibility of accuracy in what is said. Information is abundant, however, not always correct. Who hasn’t made the mistake of passing along false information? Or maybe even based a decision on bad information? Don’t contribute to the clutter of false facts.
Undoubtedly, troubled times seem to inspire passionate outpourings of emotions that end up on our screens. Many people can relate to seeing their social media news feeds filled with messages of outrage, sadness, and frustration. Let’s remember that these stories and thoughts aren’t just from some distant celebrity or politician, they are from our friends and family members.
Social media can be an amazing opportunity to share your thoughts and explore new ideas. Make your words count. Make them accurate. Make them meaningful.