on edits

It suddenly strikes me that one big difference between what I read as a kid and the huge amounts of stuff I read on the internet now is how edited stuff used to be.

A magazine article, a book, a newspaper piece? Someone who was not the original author probably looked over them and asked questions. What is this trying to say? What does it actually say? How well does it convey whatever information, story, or mood it’s trying to carry, can it be improved? And their thoughts about this went to the author for another draft. Even letters to a newspaper or magazine would be edited before publication. There were things that went out as a first draft but the rule was that stuff went through a few versions.

But so much of what we read online now is a first draft. Or less, in the case of the reply someone tosses off in a corporate-owned social media commons. So much is short fragments with little nuance, and little time spent trying to find the right words for precisely conveying your message. So much is just… good enough, I guess, but never really good, or great. And comments on anything at all controversial are so often a seething pit of terrible stuff that would have been edited to hell and back before showing up in a letter column, if ever.

I miss this. I’m tired of constantly dealing with a firehose of unedited, uncurated information.


These thoughts were somehow spawned by reading Crowley’s Postcards to Probationers, which set Laurie Anderson’s “Language is a Virus” song looping in my head for a little while as I read. I haven’t decided if this means something I should chase down, but it feels worth mentioning.

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