ICYMI: Could the next great American novel come from Twitter?

Columnist Ellie Papadakis discusses Penn’s new English course and how your parents use Facebook.

Well, folks, I’m transferring to the University of Pennsylvania.

OK, not really, but the university is offering a course next semester called “Wasting Time on the Internet” and I, for one, am super interested.

According to the school’s English department website, the class would require students to sit in class twice a week and communicate only by using chatrooms, bots, social media and listservs.

In other words, it’s like any other class. Except this time, you don’t have to worry about getting caught on Facebook.

Jokes aside, the class will help students use social media to create works of literature. The course description poses a lot of interesting questions, such as “Could we reconstruct our autobiography using only Facebook?” or “Could we write a great novella by plundering our Twitter feed?”

We often joke about family members “writing a book” on their social media, explaining what they did today or how nice it was to see their friends again. I guess over time, these status updates, intermingled with shared news stories and cat videos, really do tell a lot about a person.

Of course, there’s that unspoken rule that you shouldn’t use Facebook as a personal diary, but the more time you spend on the website, the more it seems to turn into one anyway. Diaries are something to look back at so that we can reminisce. People often go back and comment on old Facebook posts or old pictures, saying “Remember when we did this thing?”

See, it’s kind of the same thing after all. Diaries are like autobiographies, which are a lot like social media sites — personal (though not really) and in the moment.

Maybe it’s kind of a stretch, but also maybe we can actually have a Facebook autobiography. Doesn’t it feel like people are almost born with a Facebook, anyway? Like, when was the last time you heard about someone signing up to Facebook for the first time?

But can we write a book using Twitter?

That question has already been semi-answered by Twitter user @ihatejoemarshall, who has been tweeting out the entirety of “The Great Gatsby” 140 characters at a time since Sept. 9.

The author of the “Goosebumps” series R.L. Stine, recently took to Twitter to try to write an entire story in chapters of 140 characters. The short story, called “What’s In My Sandwich?” isn’t the first time Stine has tried to write “books” on Twitter. He also did it in February 2012 and on Halloween of the same year.

So I guess the short answer to that question is yes, you can write a novella on Twitter. Is it going to be the next great novella? That might be a different story.

After all, the instantaneous nature of Twitter might make it hard for readers to keep up, or continuously care, about the subject. Also, 140 characters doesn’t leave a lot of room for important metaphorical resonances.

Still, the ever-changing nature of the way that we consume and create media is something to think about. There seems to be more that we could do with social networking sites than just posting pictures of food and cute animals.

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