Is Understanding Twitter More Useful than Studying Shakespeare?

“To be, or not to be”: undoubtedly, one of the most recognized quotes in the English language.

However, chances are a lot of people don’t know the details behind that quote. They may know that William Shakespeare wrote it, but not which story it’s from, nor the context behind it.

Now the word “hashtag” on the other hand, I would bet is more familiar with the masses right now than Shakespeare’s immortal quote. People know it’s a device used on the site Twitter to categorize or make a side comment about a tweet.

To many, this may seem disheartening. “The world’s greatest writer outshined by a tic-tac-toe symbol. What is this world coming to?” But on the contrary, this may actually be more intriguing than what is on the surface.

Shakespeare of course was a master at what he did, creating timeless literary art that has inspired millions, and pissed off school children across the world. He also revolutionized the English language, inventing roughly 1700 new words that are still in use today (that most people don’t use or care for).

And Twitter’s feats?

Starting social movements, inciting revolutions, bullying twelve year old girls and connecting the world like never before, to name a few.

What makes Twitter so remarkable consists of only two elements: access and perception.

Shakespeare lived in a time when being literate was restricted mostly to the upper and upper-middle classes. Needless to say, most people in his home country of England didn’t know how to read. This cut off most people from writing what they felt, allowing the minority of literate folks to write what they wanted with little competition for attention.

This also prohibited most people from enjoying the works of Shakespeare in its base form, only allowing them to witness his stories played out on stages.

Today, only about one in five adults are illiterate in the world, meaning the vast majority of adults on the planet are at least somewhat literate. Now Twitter, which is a textually based communication network, is available wherever the internet is accessible. This allows the majority of people to not only view, analyze and critique what’s on the site, but to add their own input. And, for the most part, it’s an open and neutral ground unaffected by the censorship of governments and corporations.

Shakespeare was a single person. It is important to realize that when reading his work we are witnessing the world from only his perspective. He was neither a peasant nor a noble, but he wrote about both peasants and nobles. He wrote them as he saw them – depicted them as he imagined them.

Twitter, on the other hand, gives us the perspective of many. The royals, the plebeians, the Kim Kardashians, the John Nobles, the rich, the poor, the gay, the straight, the liberal, the conservative. And what we’re given are diverse perspectives of our world, both past and present, something Shakespeare could never do in his time.

And of course, there’s Twitter’s 150 character limit, forcing the user to push forward their thoughts in a sentence or two. This garners things significantly more simplistic than any Shakespeare piece. However, this takes away much of the overanalyzing and under analyzing that has become commonplace with readers of Shakespeare. It’s frank, which allows reader to easily understand the post as well as the intention.

Obviously the English writer has created several literary masterworks, and without him we wouldn’t have many of the great writers that we are honored with today. We wouldn’t have the stage shows and films that many of us admire so dearly. There’s no denying that he was a spectacular figure. It’s just this simple site has more to offer the human race than the bard of Avon ever could.

And who’s to say that @asstracker’s analysis of last week’s episode of Scandal won’t become the bane of high school English class students 400 years from now? Maybe after our inevitable war with the machines, and the great sunless period of the late 2800’s, what will be left of our civilization won’t be the story of a power obsessed lord and his manipulative wife, or the tragic forbidden romance of two teenagers, but a Twitter war between Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj.

Evan McDonald
Staff Writer / The Record

Evan McDonald is a staff writer for The Record and a self publishing comic book writer. He majors in Digital Media/Film Studies at Raritan Valley Community College.