Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Gossip, the Bloomsbury Group and Facebook

Where I am is a gift: a community college and as such a place of learning and ideas. Sometimes. I work in an office in the library. Oh to go out of my office and face row upon row of books! The very area where I work is a perk of the job to my mind.

Last week I went to an English Lit class that is studying British literature. My first degree was in literature and they are studying one of my favorite periods, the modernists. It feels luxurious to spend time talking about 'A Room of One's Own'. The students in the class were insightful and wise, more so than we credit to twenty-somethings having. They drew parallels between the upheavals of the post WWI world with our world now.

'What would have Woolf thought about Facebook?' one student asked.

What a great question and one to which I have given great thought.  I think that there has to be two elements to consider. First, Woolf was part of the Bloomsbury group - a group of artists, thinkers, socialites from the middle to upper classes. They were sophisticated, but they were also gossips. So from that aspect, Woolf perhaps would be intrigued by Facebook both as a gossip and a writer who loved characters. However, Woolf's insistence that women carve out their own space is a little at odds with the nature of social networking. You may think that in this universe, you have autonomy but I don't think that is really true. I am surprised at how little control I have over space  online, especially within the realms of Twitter and Facebook. Words are turned against you, pictures become the subject of other people's conversations.

Social networking has a dark side, as we all know - or do we? The internet has become a god like thing, omniscient, indestructible. Like the Old Testament creator, it can be jealous, hateful and legion in its intolerance as well as an important vehicle for spreading love and change. I think that Woolf would be both intrigued and revolted.