Social Media? No! People Person? Yes!
The Soul Selects Her Own Society
by Emily Dickinson
The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.
Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.
I’ve known her from an ample nation
Then close the valves of her attention
In 1986, Richard B. Sewall talked about his biography of Emily Dickinson. He said she wrote “warm, loving, marvelous letters.” At the time, there were three published volumes of letters, but they represented “only about a tenth of what we know she wrote. She was a people person. Never mind that poem about selecting her own society and shutting the valves of her attention like a stone; her life revolved around people.” (Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography, edited by William Zinsser. New York: American Heritage, 1986. P. 77)
Other writers of the 18th and 19th century talk about spending an hour or two a day writing letters to keep those connections with people vibrant.
It’s likely that Emily Dickinson would have loved Tweets! Especially because she was an expert in short verse! 140 characters? No problem for ED!
Connecting with People Takes Time
In other words, people connections have always taken large amounts of time for writers. Why do we think it’s any different today? We write in our caves, but in order for our writing to speak to today’s society, we must connect with others: think through ideas and discuss contemporary issues; hook up with those who can put our work in front of others; be bolstered by other writers, even as we encourage; live in the midst of a literary community that is firmly nestled within the very fibers of our nation.
If the recluse poet’s life revolved around people, why do we balk so at social media? It enables a connected life, a life that revolves around people. The medium of letters has changed to blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, but the reason we do these things hasn’t changed. Perhaps the medium also affects how shallow or deep those connections are, but that’s a different issue. Social media is social: people.
The question then becomes this: Do you want to connect with people? Are you a people person?
Are Your Tweets “Warm, loving, marvelous?”
However, social media today is easily misused. If you only think of it as a way of self-promotion, this warping of the purposes of the communication tools we use is self-destructive. It can be a self-absorbed life, which is all about “Me.” I dare you to call most tweets “warm, loving, marvelous.”
Question: I am looking for quotes from other 17th-mid20th century authors/writers/poets in which they discuss the time they spent writing letters. Any ideas?