- Poe in Cyberspace:To Like, Friend, or Follow? Poe in Social Media
He considered calling them “Random Thoughts,” “Odds and Ends,” “Stray Leaves,” “Scraps,” even “Brevities.” When Poe first published a selection of these short comments in the Southern Literary Messenger in August 1836 he settled on the title “Pinakidia.” Over time, Poe published more than 600 of these miniature essays, varying in size from one sentence to several paragraphs, and a selection of 226 followed in the Marginalia section of volume 3 of his posthumous Works (1850) on The Literati, a loosely related series. More recently, in assembling these short pieces in volume 2 of his Collected Writings (1985), Burton Pollin revived Poe’s rejected title, The Brevities. Throughout his career, Poe habitually produced casual works of this kind to fill pages, to reach out to magazine readers who might have been put off by his more demanding poems, tales, and literary criticisms, and to exploit audience dynamics in ways that anticipate today’s popular social media.
Poe took his initial title “Pinakidia” from the Greek for tablet, now also the name of digital hardware for social networking. Although Poe later claimed that he copied these paragraphs into commonplace books while reading, he admitted that many were re-borrowed from standard bibliophile collections, such as Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature. What Poe achieved in these mini-essays was a way—to use contemporary jargon—to recycle and repurpose his reading. By reusing paragraphs that already had been published and then anthologized, Poe was in a manner vending thrice-told tales. Baudelaire in France took Marginalia as a serious creative work, borrowing the phrase “My Heart Laid Bare” from Marginalia 194 as the title of his own journal, Mon coeur mis à nu. By contrast, American readers took a dozen or so installments of these [End Page 118] miscellanea quite casually as they appeared in various magazines. Unlike the aesthetic Poe who advocated perfection of form in his theories, the popular Poe assumed a relaxed and conversational manner not unlike today’s Web denizens who risk very little to register a like, become a friend, or enlist as a follower, just by clicking a link on Facebook or Twitter.
Deb Kolaras asks “Would Edgar Allan Poe Blog?” on her website, www.marketingjava.com/would-edgar-allan-poe-blog. We need not speculate on the question if we would be content with the massive evidence, on the other side of the coin, of public interest in Poe on social media today. Literally millions of Web postings on Poe have appeared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, and other social media, signaling a wide contemporary Poe renaissance. Aware as we are today of how digitalization has changed the making and distribution of printed books, magazines, and newspapers, we should have no difficulty understanding how the rotary press and steam power were among the disruptive technologies in Poe’s day, as traditionally weighty books and quarterly magazines were challenged by the rise of lighter monthly magazines and daily newspapers.
Who then are the contributors to today’s Poe renaissance? Recent research has uncovered the fact that a majority of adults are now participants in social media. The proportion of persons eighteen years of age or older using social media rose in 2013 to more than two-thirds, according to a Pew Research survey based on 1,800 landline and cell phone interviews conducted in English and Spanish in the summer of 2013 and released at the end of December 2013. Among all social media sites, according to Pew Research, Facebook remains by far the most popular, visited by 71% of all adult respondents, followed by LinkedIn with 22%. The three next sites were Pinterest, 21%; Twitter, 18%; and Instagram, 17%; incidentally, 42% of all respondents used more than one social media site.
Here are some more statistics. The demographics of Facebook are remarkably even across the categories of geography, race, gender, and age; however, senior use, formerly lagging, is now increasing, and there are fewer users earning more than $50,000 a year. Among all social media, Pinterest is used most heavily by women, especially those who are well...