Monday, 12 March 2012

Why Social Media is Good For the Mind

“I need you to read this and tell me what happened,” says my sister, thrusting a copy of Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase into my hands, “I don’t think it made sense. Although it might actually be the middle of three, which would explain it…”

Once Upon a Time I would have balked at this request.

“You want me to deliberately read a series Out Of Order?” I would have shrieked in a dramatic mixture of caps lock and italics, “What kind of MONSTER do you think I AM???!!!11”

On this occasion though, I shrug and acquiesce – not because my instinct did not tell me to read Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 first (turns out the book is the last of the set), but because I have become accustomed to reading things backwards.

“But why?” you probably aren’t bothering to shout.

The answer, dear reader, is social networking.

For those who don’t know (people based in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland where the internet is regarded as black magic; and the population of China*), sites like the Facebook and the Twitter work in real time. This means that when you log in you get the most recent messages people have posted and have to work backwards to find out what everyone’s complaining about / laughing at / watching on TV. It’s sort of like being the star of your very own slightly banal detective story.

Almost everyone has had a go at social networking even if they can’t see the point of it (and indeed I realized - as I was contemplating changing to the new Facebook timeline yesterday - that I've been using that site for about seven years) - so it stands to reason this way of taking in information would begin to filter through to other walks of life like some kind of insidious metaphor. It seems only logical that as more people sign up, human perception of time and compulsion to do things in a particular order will break down ever further.

“Whaddya mean, 1, 2, 3?” we will shout at the generation of children born to us in a future where Twitter is implanted into our retinas like a nightmare Charlie Brooker had once, “this isn’t the Stone Age! What’s the matter with 3, 2, RT 2, OMG RT 2, 1?”

In this future, book series are read backwards as standard, government advice suggests Lost only be viewed from the final episode of series eighty seven, and government legislation ensures Monopoly starts with everyone bankrupt and in jail.

It may sound strange and frightening now, but by and large I think all of this is A Good Thing. Reading backwards is great exercise for the brain and helps us empathise with our dyslexic cousins, who read everything out of order all the time and are more creative human beings as a result.

Furthermore, it turns out reading Murakami the wrong way round only makes him more interesting and this is how I shall approach IQ84. To find out how that goes, join me on Twitter… (@periwinklewine)

*this is an hilarious joke at the expense of Chinese governmental restrictions which include a Facebook ban, but actually they have their own versions of these sites so it probably doesn’t apply there at all.

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