Social media is probably not the first medium most bibliophiles think of when they consider their favorite ways to read literature. The digital-literary debate usually surrounds the virtues of light-in-weight-but-not-choices e-readers versus the meditative pleasures of holding a physical book. When it comes to platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, readers might be skeptical of how services best known for viral memes, influencer culture, and nasty online feuds can also be home to poetry, short stories, and diaristic entries worthy of literary and cultural analysis.
“Insta poets” like Rupi Kaur have breathed new life into the genre by creating aesthetically pleasing, topically relatable, and easily shareable poems for the online generation. And they have successfully monetized their work and gained thousands of devoted fans in the process. Twitter’s character-limited form has also inspired some writers, such as David Mitchell and Jennifer Egan, to create literature that works within—not despite—those confines. But as avid Twitter users know, the platform can also be a toxic place filled with trolls, disinformation, racism, misogyny, and hostility. Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed attempts to find out what happened to the private citizens who’ve been called out on Twitter for offensive or controversial tweets. Ronson “vividly warns about the power of angry mobs online but ultimately misdiagnoses what drives the modern cycles of indignation,” according to The Atlantic’s Spencer Kornhaber.