Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Social Media Content: Is it Nonfiction Writing?

Is social media content nonfiction writing?
If you compose a tweet, are you a non-fiction writer? If you constantly update your Facebook status, are you considered a writer? If you are continually updating and improving your LinkedIn profile and publishing articles to the community, are you a writer? There are tons of blogs, social networking sites, and photo and video uploading sites, but does the quantity of these sites really match the quality that should be reflected in nonfiction writing, photography, and film?

I once read a book that was composed entirely of instant messages. At first, it was strange not to see large blocks of text, and to look at everything through an instant message screen. After some reading, though, I was used to the short sentences, screen names, and acronyms. Social media works the same way. Short "tweets," status updates, or photo uploads on Instagram tell someone’s original, personal, and true story. The content of these stories may be crude, lack grammar and punctuation, contain plagiarism, or be nonsensical; but now, more than ever, people are sharing their stories with the world.

What counts as official
nonfiction writing?
What counts as official nonfiction writing, then? In the case of the instant message book I read—published by Harper Collins and available at Barnes and Noble—if you collect all of the social media outlets that one person writes into, you have a unique story about them. You have their work history, their college, photos, where they’ve lived, what they think about certain topics, their likes and dislikes, their family, their relationship status, even their birthday. Think about a book written only using Facebook statuses. You could tell an entire story about a person using only what they’ve written in Facebook status updates. When they’re sad, when they got divorced, when their dog died, when they had a great day at work, when they got a promotion, when they got a flat tire. If they are edited, well-written, and collected in a book of short stories or a full-fledged novel, social media posts could make excellent non-fiction writing.

Some social media updates can be considered plagiarism.
One of the major issues facing social media non-fiction writing is plagiarism. There are millions of re-tweets every day, tons of copied statuses, and multiple people posting the same photographs. When a writer decides to use social media clippings as part of their book, short story collection, or poem, they need to be careful to check sources. Someone can quote a song lyric, a famous scientist, or an obscure book, but a non-fiction author cannot use this material unless they verify the source. If you’re unsure about a particular piece of text, always check it against a plagiarism checker. One of the best online resources for plagiarism is Grammarly. Grammarly checks your work for plagiarism against tons of other sources, and can save you the headache of having to worry about stealing someone else’s words. It also can proofread your work and find grammar and punctuation errors while teaching you how to avoid them in the future.

Does social media content count as non-fiction writing? In the right context, it can. If it’s proofread, edited, professional, and tells a clear story, then yes, social media sources can be used as non-fiction writings. With the general population’s willingness to share every minute of their lives with their friends or followers, it’s easy to commit plagiarism with quotes or song lyrics. When using these materials, make sure to always check for any red flags, mistakes, or possible broken rights. Social media posts by themselves are not necessarily nonfiction writing. However, if a writer were to cultivate the posts and clean them up, they could become a nonfiction masterpiece.

TWEETABLESCan #socialmedia content count as nonfiction writing? @NikBaron has the answers on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)
Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff. I've been plagued by some of these problems, wondering if this thing or that was a quote from a tangible source, or one of my own smushed up versions of several things together. Word attempts to help me grammarily, at times, and on a number of occasions what it tries to 'change' my wording into is wrong. That happening makes me shake my head in disbelief... I'll have to check out Grammarly. Thanks ppl. ;)