In January of 2012, in an article published at The Atlantic Monthly, Nathan Jurgenson opined that social media is changing the way we experience the world and ourselves.
According to Jurgenson, "We are increasingly aware of how our lives will look as a Facebook photo, status update or check-in." This awareness, Jurgenson argues, affects our consciousness, and changes not just how we view our relationships that are mediated by digital culture, but also how we view and engage the present moment. He queries, "Are we becoming so concerned about posting our lives on Facebook that we forget to live our lives in the here-and-now?"
To anyone who uses social media, this should seem a fair question. But perhaps another question we could ask, one that Jurgenson doesn't, is what role does the blog play in individual expression and social integration in an increasingly digitized culture?
The blog, short for weblog, fruited long before microblogging platforms like Facebook and Twitter. And though blogging has morphed, in some respects, into a marketing front for businesses and organizations of all types, it still remains a largely interpersonal affair, where anyone from tweeners to corporate elites to editors of college literary journals can express themselves in an informal and (hopefully) interesting manner.
As a writer and photographer myself, I depend on a blog to reach readers and observers, to unpack my feelings about the world, and, when fortuity strikes, to forge deep connections with humans I might've never otherwise met. And that's a beautiful thing in a world that feels increasingly disenchanted.
I like to think one day, maybe fifty years from now, blogs will be inaugurated into the English canon. This shouldn't take fifty years, mind you, but academia tends to move rigidly, ever focused on preserving what has passed and often getting stuck in the "what is," despite advocating for the future and for change. Still, from the literary contributions of Maria Popova of Brainpickings to the diaristic confessions of that unschooled girl who set up a free Blogger account and sculpted a memoir at the keyboard in her basement (you know the kind I speak of), the blog deserves to be recognized as a potent literary force, a medium for social change, a tool that, as I think Jurgenson would confess, alters how we view and engage the world, self, and other. But instead of opaquing the present moment and our relationship with it, as social media tend to do, the blog might illuminate and magnify it.
So, it is with these sentiments that I welcome the blog to the new Touchstones website, a place not only for announcing updates and submission calls, but a quiet stage on which Touchstones staff members can express themselves as it relates to working for the journal, or studying English, or being affected by student artwork and writing. A little more community—that's what we hope for. And it seems the blog is a good way to facilitate this connection.
One more thing.
This new site is built on an incredibly intuitive and user-friendly platform called Squarespace. As such, gone are the days of an outdated website. As we move forward, managing our online presence will be just as integrative to publishing Touchstones as is editing and design. Of course, printing the journal will always be our highest concern, because we're the kind of people who like holding, feeling words and art (call us bookish). But to connect with the Touchstones staff, to stay up to date on submission deadlines and publication dates, to be a little more engaged with fellow students who share a love of art and literature, visit our new site on occasion, and read the blog. You can even subscribe here—and you should. That way you can stay in touch without having to scroll that oft-estranging social media feed.