Photo Credit: Ted Croner, Times Square
We are barely more than two weeks into Pluck and I have already grown reflective. What are we trying to say? Whose voice are we trying to capture? What idea or opinion unifies us?
In a world lined with data, we are offered a picture of what this twenty-something generation is doing with their time. Surveys and studies are constantly telling us what we are buying, how many of us voted, how much time we spend on the computer, and how much we spend on social networking sites.
Those numbers are collected and analyzed by companies that want to figure out not just the how twenty-somethings make choices, but why they choose the ones they do. In other words, what are we thinking about?
Using a laptop to write a blog post that will be published on an online magazine, I feel comfortable saying that many young people are spending a lot of time on the computer. The internet is like New York City on a Saturday night – everything is at your fingertips, but distractions make it hard to focus.
I believe that the length of time people spend on websites that present opinions, news, culture, and commentary is confined by impatience. The constraints of time, interest, and thirst for new information, on the part of both the reader and the author, make many articles sound shrill or boring (perhaps you think that about this one?) – a forum that can ultimately be alienating and oversimplified.
Reflections on this idea came from an unlikely source: New York Times columnist, Frank Rich, who after decades working as drama-turned-political writer, is leaving his post. While I have not been an avid reader of his, I read his final column and much of his farewell was devoted to many of my own thoughts concerning idea-exchange in 2011. He writes:
“For me, the point of opinion writing is less to try to shape events, a presumptuous and foolhardy ambition at best, than to help stimulate debate and, from my particular perspective, try to explain why things got the way they are and what they might mean and where they might lead… I do have strong political views, but opinions are cheap.”
Opinions are cheap. Opinions left untethered from the context of a person, place, or thing end up seeming two-dimensional. At a time when a second identity online is a reality that most of have adjusted to, the flatness of that identity oftentimes mirrors the very flatness of the screen from which it comes.
Yet, just because the computer screen that emits identities out there is flat, the people it portrays need not be. A little reflection goes a long way. Pluck, to me, is a vehicle for reflection. Such reflection often produces a complexity of thought and purpose that I feel is underrepresented in the virtual – and sometimes real – world. Ultimately, reading people’s stories just makes me feel a little closer to a bunch of people my age who also just don’t really know what people my age are thinking.