Why your “COEXIST” bumper sticker applies to TikTok and Dostoyevsky, too
At the risk of alienating myself from the majority of those who use this website, I still find it necessary to pipe up against the sweeping derision that is often leveled against modern media. What triggered me is this prompt's allegation that all consumers of modern media are automatically "mindless, unsophisticated zombies" and that these media are lacking in creativity because, unlike writing, they do not encourage correct grammar and exotic vocabulary. To me, that mentality is dangerous, unproductive, unfair, and flagrantly supercilious. And I think the best way to explain my reasoning is to talk about my phone.
My phone is veritably filthy in its inconsistencies, in its assorted roles. What do I not do with my phone--I text my friends, FaceTime my family, read classic literature that I'm sure I'm not fully appreciating, access sensitive documents, play server-based video games, and, yes, watch TikTok. Before you report me as a sexual predator, I assure you that I have zero interest--in fact, I have mostly disgust--for the stereotypical TikToker, i.e., the teenagers who have somehow expanded the social structure of high school to a global audience and amassed a following that even makes the grown-ups notice. But the sides of TikTok that I do have an interest in--the sprawling world of silly comedy skits, jaw-dropping musical talent, darkly humorous insights on existence--consume tons of my time, to the point that I am losing time for other things. Things that, to some, may be seen as more worthwhile than a piece of shit like TikTok.
And again, my phone seems to be a great illustration of this, too, as it congratulates me for reaching a reading goal but never for reaching a TikTok-ing goal. Hell, it passively shames me for it by dryly reporting my time on it every week. And I do feel those pangs of guilt, on occasion. I mean come on--do I really want to waste my precious time on earth with my still functioning brain by watching fifteen second videos that will be passed up, scrolled by, given a giggle then quickly forgotten? Shouldn't I be in the trenches with something that is more worthwhile, that has stood the test of time and won the adoration of people much smarter than me for years? Why bother learning how to do a stupid dance when I could be honing the venerable craft of writing? And those moments inevitably end with me coming back here, to see if I can write something to redeem myself.
What always brings me back around is the admission of the simple fact that I am in no position to judge whether one form of creativity is superior to another. The pretentiousness that often consumes those of the "fine" arts does little to advance their cause. By indiscriminately dismissing entire art forms as intrinsically inferior and campy, these arts further alienate themselves from the world. And is that the purpose of art? To construct an exclusive circle, forlorn in a meager world supported by nothing more than reverence for tradition and collective disdain for deviants? Does it really need to be this way?
And again, my phone has the answer. Of course not. My iBooks app sits right next to Snapchat, and it hasn't exploded... yet. Just because one art form doesn't follow the highbrow rules that we stereotypically associate with "true creativity" doesn't mean that it is any less of an art, nor any less creative. Absence of adherence to grammar and punctuation shouldn't automatically discredit what the text is trying to say. To me, that kind of outright dismissal reveals an inability to appreciate complexity, as opposed to a thirst for it. And let's not forget the flip side, that there's garbage everywhere. I will happily concede--in fact, I already have conceded--that much of modern media, be it TikTok or Snapchat or Youtube or whatever, is overrun by straight up trash. But have you seen some of the paperbacks that make the best sellers list? Just because someone uses a five syllable word and a colorful cast of characters doesn't mean that that book is guaranteed to be any more worthwhile than watching a YouTube creator's short film about a love story between a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste.
The whole planet is consumed by a desperate need to split the world and pick a side: good vs. bad, Avengers vs. Thanos, Democrats vs. Republicans, my team vs. your team, fine art vs... vs. whatever we call everything else. I don't feel obligated to join the craze. Yes, writing matters. Yes, good writing is still out there and is still appreciated. But why does that have to mean that good TikToks don't matter, or don't deserve appreciation?
I yield my time.