The premise of the novel being ‘dead’ first arose during the rise of nihilism: the denial or lack of belief in meaningful aspects of life.
Though many have claimed that this was an exaggeration, with the rise of social media has come an entire generation that has been removed from literary culture. Our most well-known creative outlet is now YouTube.
YouTube is both a blessing and a curse. Watching a world of Californian YouTubers and their lavish lifestyles easily leads down a rabbit hole of random videos about ‘Twitter beef’ or ‘tea’ that apparently needs spilling.
Along with this new cultural phenomenon comes the unfortunate decline of time being spent on ‘traditional’ hobbies. What I am referring to is the kind of thing that your parents would say if they saw you binging Netflix for hours: “When I was your age we had to spend our time doing something offline. Do something else! Go outside, ride a bike, or read a book!”
Literary fiction once dictated popular culture, but with the rise of the digital age, the hunger for new stories has been satisfied by movie adaptations and audio books.
The sponsoring of YouTubers by companies like Audible has greatly increased in popularity. Audio books are considered to be easier to ‘read’; people can experience ‘reading’ a book while doing other tasks at the same time. This has resulted in fewer purchases of hard copies. In turn, many book stores, particularly independents, have had to shut their doors.
Personally, I find that listening to a book does not give you the same feelings as picking up a new book and experiencing that euphoria of ‘new book’ smell does. It truly is a sad moment every time someone tells me that they have not even heard of some of the greatest books of all time, never mind having read them.
Literary culture has dwindled down to sappy Wattpad stories of a girl reading in a café or a park and meeting the boy whom she will later marry. The days of literary puns and classic English literature are long gone. Every so often, a book series will send popular culture into a frenzy, leaving behind a whirlwind of heartbroken teens and fierce fandoms, but for the most part, literary culture is slowly being lowered into its grave.
Even when speaking to friends of mine, many say that they “love the idea of reading” but can’t stay focused on a book long enough to finish it. Honestly, how can I, or any other book lover, blame them? This generation has been trained to be accustomed to the fast pace of social media and its continually growing collection of memes.
All that remains of literary culture is what hipsters have made from romanticizing the idea of reading in a café and having revolutionary ideas. The sad truth is that, in a world in which the novel is so out of sync with a society molded so heavily by meme culture, the idea of someone reading could actually be seen as incredibly intellectual.
Reading is no longer associated with leisure. Novels have now become intertwined with academia and schoolwork. The automatic instinct for many children, teens, and adults is to grab their electronic devices and play games, listen to music, or use social media rather than immerse themselves in a story beyond themselves and the world around them.
Reading is now looked upon as an acquired interest rather than a common hobby. It seems like reading has returned to being a refined art form, and the glory days of being ecstatic when your parents took you to Chapters or the local book store are no more.
The traditional novel is obsolete beside ever-advancing technology. Literary culture, to most people of this era, is dead or dying.