Recently, my wife and I attended ‘The Festival of Words’ in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. That Festival is a celebration of published Canadian authors. The authors read from their works, and invite questions or comments from the listeners. Dramatic Readings, panel discussions and evening entertainments also occur. The Festival is a most rewarding experience. The next Festival begins July 13, 2023. I highly recommend it.
As we sat listening to the many authors, we were reminded of the importance and significance of the written word – whether it be fiction, non fiction, or poetry. The authors gave us many things – moving stories, captivating imagery, emotional reactions, and above all thoughts to contemplate. Thoughts that led us to expand our awareness of the world, and society around us. Our own biases were opened to question.
The relatively recent evolution of ‘social media’ outlets and their gaining popularity has created concerns for the future of traditional forms of the written word and the need for society to not lose its capacity for rigorous critical reading and thinking.
These concerns were highlighted for me when I read, just weeks before the Festival, Dale Eisler’s book, “From Left to Right – Saskatchewan’s Political and Economic Transformation.” Eisler is an acclaimed writer of both non fiction and fiction. Some may remember him as a journalist who worked in Saskatchewan.
In, “From Left to Right,” Eisler has this to say about ‘Social Media’ as it blossoms. “On the one hand while it (social media) has created a truly interconnected global community, it has also led to social fragmentation and even isolation – narrowing people’s perspectives as they design a … world that reflects their own … biases.” Eisler concludes this particular analysis by writing, “To be specific, the social media ecosystem is built on delivering more of what the user already likes.”
Critical thinking is often not highlighted; rather it results in, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong!’ How does this move us to be a more open and understanding world?
One source of information facing declining readership due to over reliance on social media, is the newspaper.
I enjoy reading the Prince Albert Daily Herald. Reports about local happenings keep me in tune with life here in my home town, whether it be the arts and culture scene (Lehner wows at Rawlinson), sports events (Angel Besskkaystare named team Saskatchewan flag bearer), noteworthy actions of fellow citizens (Monica Steinke named Saskatchewan Junior Citizen of the Year), or other events both savoury and those that are not.
I have found stories that serve to connect with personal situations in my own life – example – “Shattered lives: British Home Children….” – my father, while not from Prince Albert, led a most demanding and solitary youth when he was brought from England to work on Saskatchewan farms. Then there are obituaries that serve to bring me both sadness and fond memories – and I encounter opinion articles that demand a critical review of their messages – “Online grocery shopping a cause for concern.” – “Council declines to approve ballpark sponsorship from Prince Albert firearms business.” – “The road to hell is paved with green intentions”
The above and many more examples, give me information and cause me to pause, absorb, feel emotions, agree with, or bring forth counter ideas and disclaimers.
Any society needs to hear about itself, needs to remember, needs to demand clarification about its actions. In other words needs to make its citizens think. These are processes that give promises of generating a wiser and healthier world.
Books, newspapers, and other sources of the written word require our attention so that they can continue to provide stories, opinions, and newsworthy reports that serve to connect us to one another and the world around us.