Lately blogs and social media platforms, especially facebook, have become inundated with the words of the famous. Actually, when you see the astounding number of memes, it has become a new way of not speaking for yourself and an obsession. For those who aren’t writers, I get it. It’s quick, easy and expresses exactly how you feel about the world, yourself, other people or the human condition. It’s the fast food of online communication but for writers, this can get a bit tricky.
At what point does it appear reliant and lazy for a writer to post and share with abandon the words of famous people? At what point is it okay to quote yourself? Does it lack humility to just say what you think and post it with certainty?
I’ve been feeling rather icky lately when I post anything that has come out of the pen or mouth of a celebrated individual. Not only does it feel like a creative cop out but many of the quotes are actually misquotes credited to multiple people, any one of whom may have said it. The task of authenticating each one is a laborious task that will take you everywhere until you end up nowhere near the truth.
The other aspect of this is that some of the quotes are actually taken from classic works of literature and ascribed to actors, sports figures or politicians. For a writer, this is entering messed up territory that smacks of a cultural regression that should disturb us all. Copyrights come to mind when talking content extraction with passages taken from books by authors who are current. But that’s an entirely different topic for another post.
Still, there is another problematic issue with sites like brainyquotes and all their multiple relatives. By supplying an endless amount of sentimental, philosophical and intellectual musings that are shared continuously in the vacuum of the internet, the content is fast becoming meaningless. The words lose their edge, the message is empty and people dispose of it like a candy wrapper.
Eventually, the source of anything said is now a mystery, even if that source is Shakespeare, Dickens, Millay, Shelley, Voltaire, Thoreau et al., Yes, I have seen passages from each of these writers and attributed to others. Quite frankly, it’s an insult to the original author and nothing less than blatant ignorance by a populace that is becoming dumber by the day. There is such as thing as too much information and not enough knowledge and you can quote me on that.
*The title is a play on words, excuse the pun. It is the famous soliloquy from William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet.’