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A heart rather than a phone call.
August 18, 2014 7:52 AM   Subscribe

A Memoir Is Not a Status Update by Dani Shapiro [The New Yorker] "What would have become of me if I had come of age as a writer during these years of living out loud?"
posted by Fizz (20 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not sure I agree with the distinction she's making. Someone's Facebook post about a major event isn't going to be as purging as writing a memoir years after the event.

In her example, she probably would have posted some details to Facebook or Twitter or what have you about her parents' accident and her father's death, but not all the details and her thoughts (unless she's one of those FB posters). Would the pressure release really be any greater than what she probably got at the time from writing letters and talking to people?
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:17 AM on August 18


She makes the mistake, like so many people, of assuming that people are baring their souls on social media. If anything, that so many people are constantly looking might make someone all the more secretive.

We put forward our best, happiest selves sometimes. We know our audience, and reveal perhaps only the superficial pains, the "first-world problems." Or perhaps we do admit the "socially acceptable" sadnesses, the deaths and breakups, but never the lingering, everyday malaise that might build up.

There's a world of difference between a Facebook status and memoir fodder. The two in no way preclude one another.
posted by explosion at 8:19 AM on August 18 [15 favorites]


This essay is somehow written with an identical tone to I Appreciate The Muppets On A Much Deeper Level Than You which makes me think this sort of piece is a known quantity.

I just can't tell if this line: "I wonder what would have become of me if I had come of age as a writer during these years of living out loud" is an indictment of herself and her habits, or an easy "kids these days" crack backed up by a bunch of confirmation bias base on what her Facebook friends are doing.
posted by griphus at 8:21 AM on August 18 [4 favorites]


"What would have become of me if I had come of age as a writer during these years of living out loud?"

So that's what LOL means.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:25 AM on August 18 [4 favorites]


She is definitely confused about the difference between memoir and Facebook. If anything, the ways in which we interact on Facebook only deepen our experience as people.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:28 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


She makes the mistake, like so many people, of assuming that people are baring their souls on social media.

I have a couple of friends who do actually do that on FB and it's always seems a little embarrassing. Facebook is for sharing pictures of cats and grandkids and whatever George Takei has said lately, not for actually saying anything important or truthful.
posted by octothorpe at 8:34 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


Okay I love Dani Shapiro and I know she's become a much more "serious" or maybe "spiritual" writer over the last decade or so, with important things to say on Craft and whatever, but you all should know that not only is Slow Motion about a terrible car crash, it's also about how Shapiro busted herself out of an affair with a gangster who was whooooops her college roommate's dad. It's AWESOME and you should all read it.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:40 AM on August 18 [2 favorites]


Living Out Loud is totally underrated actually. (Sorry)

This piece is too easy to dismiss because of the title since, as many have noted here already, the converse is also very obviously true -- a status update is not a memoir either and most people realize that.

But the piece is much better than its title and I'm glad I got past it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:55 AM on August 18


Facebook is for sharing pictures of cats and grandkids and whatever George Takei has said lately, not for actually saying anything important or truthful.

Facebook is for staring at the auto-GIFs generated by FB anytime anyone posts a video and wondering what the video would be like with sound but then not ever actually clicking.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:58 AM on August 18 [4 favorites]


Does anyone actually "live out loud" on Facebook? Our interior lives are still pretty private.
posted by Nevin at 9:07 AM on August 18


> Facebook is for sharing pictures of cats and grandkids and whatever George Takei has said lately, not for actually saying anything important or truthful.

Facebook is a method of communication that could be used for sharing cat pictures and other people's witticisms AND saying anything important or truthful. What's telling is that the de facto Facebook for most people has become a content mill for the former rather than the latter.

But I thought this article was more about the trade-off between sharing and self-reflection, which the complementary Facebook post also highlights. It really seems like it's coming at people from both ends: the apparent audience changes the nature of what would normally be more open communication, and the functionality of the "Like" provides a substitute for deeper personal engagement.

Either way, Facebook is obviously not a substitute for memoirs, but it does raise the interesting question of what to call this socially influenced alternative.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 9:16 AM on August 18


You could call it a diary. That's like a memoir, except you write it in real-time, while you're still stupid. Or you could just call it society. The place where people live and talk with each other about stuff because they like to share and hear other peoples' input and don't steer their lives by the ultimate goal of writing a sufficiently deep traumatic memoir.
posted by mbrock at 10:12 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


I’m grateful that I wasn’t a young writer with a blog or a massive following on social media. The years of silence were deepening ones.

I disagree. It is possible to be as loud as you'd like on social media, without actually conveying what you truly feel. If anything, the modern age simply makes it easier for us to hide in plain sight.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:26 AM on August 18 [2 favorites]


Call it an account.
posted by Lorin at 10:28 AM on August 18 [3 favorites]


She makes the mistake, like so many people, of assuming that people are baring their souls on social media. If anything, that so many people are constantly looking might make someone all the more secretive.

Agreed. No one bares their souls on social media -- they shill their products and services on them -- plus, no one is going to pay to read your bragging/snarky/whiny status -- or use it for the book club selection of the month...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:39 AM on August 18


I post pretty blantant "non-filtered, no bullshit or fake happy smiles" status updates on facebook, if it embarrasses someone immediately unfriend me with nary a comment as far as I am concerned, I'm using it is a platform to survive and educate people as to what I am going through and so far no one has said to me IRL or anywhere for that matter "what you are doing is too much". Rather people I hardly know have approached me and said my efforts have had a tremendously positive impact to how they view and live their own lives.

So for me it is a very personal record of events I have shared that has greatly enriched my own life, and several other people's lives around me. I don't accept the FUD towards new communication mediums. I use them to my optimal advantage.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:45 AM on August 18 [4 favorites]


it's also about how Shapiro busted herself out of an affair with a gangster who was whooooops her college roommate's dad.

I thought the name sounded familiar! I haven't read Slow Motion, but that's also the more-or-less plot of her first novel, Playing With Fire (1990) which I found in a thrift store a few years ago. Fun fact: Shapiro's first husband was world music poobah Dan Storper, the man responsible for all those Putumayo cds you (used to) see in Starbucks.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:45 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


I think it's a bit overblown, partly because I've not not read much Shapiro. Quite a few great authors--including those that contributed great memoirs and diaries--had prolific social-media habits via post and calling cards. Sometimes daily correspondence took up hours of the writer's life. We forget that prior to the telephone, there was an entire etiquette demanding short written responses in acknowledgement of life events, announcements of having arrived in the same city, and status updates as to whether one is or is not available for what kind of social engagements. Even lonely Edgar Alan Poe attempted to maintain multiple virtual romances with women in different cities at the end of his life.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:34 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


If anything, the ways in which we interact on Facebook only deepen our experience as people.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA--

Wait, you were serious?
posted by dersins at 2:47 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


I use FB as a sort of personal blog for friends and acquaintances. I don't bare my soul, and I don't think many people do. Just seems like another "TV just ain't what the radio used to be" kind of musing.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:22 PM on August 18


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