In his book The book of laughter and forgetting, Kundera makes a cynical criticism on graphomania - desire to write.
The reason we write books is that our kids don't give a damn. We turn to an anonymous world because our wife stops up her ears when we talk to her ... Graphomania (an obsession with writing books) takes on the proportions of a mass epidemic whenever a society develops to the point where it can provide three basic conditions:
1. a high enough degree of general well-being to enable people to devote their energies to useless activities;
2. an advanced state of social atomization and the resultant general feeling of the isolation of the individual;
3. a radical absence of significant social change in the internal development of the nation. (In this connection I find it symptomatic that in France, a country where nothing really happens, the percentage of writers is twenty-one times higher than in Israel).
It is strange to find that even an influential writer like Kundera feels uncertain about himself. Combination of humbleness and self-degeneration. Regardless, his observation of our society is surprisingly accurate. If I have to summarize Kundera's point, we will have unstoppable desire to write if the following conditions hold in our world:
- We only face first world problems.
- We are lonely.
- We are bored.
With the advent of internet and social networking services, Kundera's vision was never truer. Remember, Laughter and Forgetting was published in 1979. Blogging, Facebook, and Twitter are suppose to make us more open, social, and connected. But are they? In my opinion, those services do not eliminate Kundera's three conditions of graphomania (The first criterion is not a problem so it is better to be left without a solution). Social media services does not stop the social atomization, and it is not a significant social change.
The last sentence is controversial without an explanation. Advent of internet and social media are arguably the biggest change since the industrial revolution. It promotes the free, uncensored spreading of the messages, and played influential roles in recent movements such as 2011 Egyptian Revolution and Occupy movement. Arguably, if Facebook existed during the cold war, it could have stopped the Russian intervention of Czechoslovakia in 1948. Prague would have rejoiced in its perpetual spring, and Kundera would not been bitter enough to write his novels.
I'm not objecting their monumentality. But I do think that it is not a change by itself, but a catalyst for the other changes. It is a very powerful catalyst, soil for the future revolutions. But without a powerful social phenomena to exploit this catalyst, social media would not stop our craving to write. So I have to rephrase myself: Social network is not the significant social change that would make us to forget our boredom.
So social media do not solve our problems. However, it they are very good at mediating the symptoms. They fill our graphomaniac needs. I can write about Kundera, how much I find him influential, and force it down my friends' throat via Facebook. I can tweet about it too, and hope that the entire world care about it.
I will end the post with a demotivational poster.