We live in a Facebook world, where every blink is an Instagram, every word a Tweet. What used to be a great way to keep in touch with family and friends–both old and new–has turned into a way to express ourselves, without the fear of repercussion. We want to be followed. We want to be liked. So, we take our strongest views and post them, upload them, text them, all in the name of being social.
I see it on Facebook all the time: gay pride banners, pro-life shares, comments on police brutality, or likes for their courageous acts.
When did our lives become so extreme? And what in the world does this have to do with books?
Like all other social media, Goodreads suffers from the same problem. I recently received this comment from an old high school acquaintance after finishing George Orwell’s 1984 and giving it 3 stars.
Note that this person gave the same book 5 stars. They had used words like ‘how do you justify‘ and ‘only three stars’. At first glance, it had a belittling tone. I hadn’t seen this person in over 15 years and no other context to go off of. But I didn’t want to assume the worst or get into a battle-of-the-ratings.
So, I tried thinking of a way to respond and decided that being honest would be best.
And their response…
Authors may write a book, but no one will ever read it the same. Even if I had given 1984 the same clout as my acquaintance, we would still view the book differently. If someone were to ask, “Who is the antagonist of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice?” The responses would be different.
Caroline Bingley? Lady Cathrine de Bourgh? Someone might argue that it’s Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, who unknowingly stand between their daughters and their happiness. Or maybe someone is philosophical and says that the true antagonist is pride itself.
The correct answer?
It’s whatever the reader takes away. Because books are made for the masses, but enjoyed by individuals.
We should treat our posts and comments the same way. We may think we’re sending something into the void because we’re allowed to. We have a right to our opinion. But what we write, will be viewed by individuals. And even if feeds show a growing thread of extremes, most people are more complex than that. Even as complex as books.