Out of the forest

Years ago the question was this: If I write words that no one reads, am I really a writer?

Now, the question has a digital twist: If I write a blog that no one reads, am I really a writer?

“Real writers are those who want to write, need to write, have to write,” says writer/poet Robert Penn Warren.

If he is correct, a writer’s real concern is not with audience, approval and acknowledgement.

Still, the existential question of what makes a writer leads to the core of dilemma and doubt: Is anyone out there? Are we in the proverbial forest, where trees — and words — fall with a silent thud?

In this blog-age, writers are slicing the silence with long-winded whines of Read me!

It’s what every writer wants. It’s why millions of books line store shelves, why thousands of readings take place each week, and why there are zillions of blogs just like mine. Writers want to be heard, read — and here’s the greedy part — acknowledged.

See me. It’s the song of the times. And not just for writers.

It’s why 100 million people now use Facebook, and join MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks. We — myself included — spend countless hours distracting ourselves, stumbling through websites, sifting through blogs. We savor and sort, experience, extract, move on. We’re living in, as the New York Times says, a “brave new world of digital intimacy.”

And now the question expands: We’re all connected but to what depth?

When we share the mundane, as in Twitter’s moment-by-moment reportage and Facebook’s What are you doing right now? status reports (answer: “I am waiting for the bus”) do we really grow emotionally closer? Are we elevated, illuminated, entertained? Or do these moments of incessant contact simply increase our narcissism while distracting us from silence and reflection, the very things necessary to create books and poems and discourse to deepen our lives and counter the mindless chatter?

The genius behind Facebook, 26 year-old Mark E. Zuckerberg, has never known a world without caller ID, cellphones and Internet connection. Indeed, the young creatives driving technology today have always experienced the immediacy of online access, digital cameras and text messages. In this age of ‘digital intimacy’ genuine communication and deep connection may not be the point.

We've stepped out of the forest. We're all just screaming to be heard.