How’s a Writer to Thrive in Today’s Visual World?

Okay, this post is nothing but a vent. It’s a vent from me — a writer and creator of websites for writers — about a social media world that is getting dumbed down.

This is one of the most shared things on the web. Need I say more?

Quick. Take a look at what’s hot on YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest. What’s getting the most “shares” and “likes”? No, it’s not the witty prose that great authors are putting together. Nor is it the interesting commentaries on our society. It’s pictures like the one above. Photos of dogs drinking from a toilet, or of babies with food smeared all over their faces. Now, I love dogs and babies as much as the next guy, but what in the world does it say about our society that this is what people find most appealing?

I’m a writer and reader. I’m a person who loves the written word. Nothing is as exciting to me as reading something that makes me think about things in a new way, or that makes me laugh or cry.

Today’s writers can do everything right when it comes to marketing themselves online. They can write witty tidbits about what’s going on in the news. They can put together beautiful short stories and share them with the world. And yet, their content isn’t going viral.

So why is that? I have a few theories…

1. The dumbing down of America. Seriously. It’s not a joke. People’s attention span nowadays is about that of a gnat. If someone has to read more than five words, it’s not worth their time.

2. The speed of social media. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest is like life in fast forward. You have less than a second to capture someone’s attention. So, of course, a funny picture — which you can absorb in less than two seconds — garners more interest than a well-written article.

3. The move towards a visual world. I’m a very verbally-oriented person. I think in words, not pictures. I enjoy words more than pictures. But I think I’m in the minority … a minority that is only getting smaller by the day. Today’s world is led by the visual image, with even captions being a very minor piece of a puzzle.

So what’s an author to do? How are you supposed to become noticed if you can’t whip up an infographic at will, or take an adorable picture that will go viral? I wish I had an answer to that question. I’m trying to figure it out myself.

Meanwhile, if you’ve made it this far down in the blog post, then you probably are like me and have a longer attention span than most. Do me a favor and “share,” “tweet,” or “like” this post. Give me and all the other writers out there a little hope.

... otherwise, this is the future of communication.