Writers have always adapted to new technologies—from the invention of the typewriter to the rise of radio, TV, and the internet. Today, Margaret Atwood dabbles in digital publishing platforms; Paulo Coehlo is an active presence on Instagram; and Neil Gaiman posts regularly on Tumblr. Even Joyce Carol Oates has a (famously bizarre) Twitter presence.
Writers’ digital taste tends to correspond with their literary aesthetics. Atwood, for instance, is a speculative fiction writer who is keenly interested in how technology shapes storytelling. By that same logic, it’s possible to guess which platforms and apps would attract writers who predated the smartphone. We used the words and works of canonical content creators and classic literary #influencers to make our best guesses about how writers from Emily Dickinson to Ernest Hemingway would have felt about today’s technology.
Emily Dickinson: Seamless
Because I could not stop for Dinner –
It kindly stopped for me –
Henry David Thoreau: Instagram
Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. #waldenpond #livedeliberately #nofilter
Lord Byron: Tinder (and OkCupid, Hinge, Happn, Down, and probably Grindr)
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of swiping right
Meet in her aspect and her eyes, if you know what I mean.
Jane Austen: Bumble
The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much! I may need to upgrade to Bumble Boost.
Dorothy Parker: Twitter
Brevity is the soul of lingerie. #makeaquotedirty
Jack Kerouac: Uber
The only people for me are the mad ones: the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time… basically anyone who will split an uberPOOL with me.
Nathaniel Hawthorne: Airbnb
Halfway down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst. Authentic colonial feel. Close to historic downtown. Sleeps four. Cent-shop on premises.
Mark Twain: Facebook
There are lies, damned lies and statistics. And cat videos.
Samuel Pepys: Tumblr
To the mall and thence to the Apple store, where the genius bar has put my iPhone in order, and a good and brave piece it is, and he tells me worth £140, which is greater. . . than I valued it….So home and late at my office. But, Lord! to see how much of my old folly and childishnesse hangs upon me still that I cannot forbear carrying my phone in my hand in the coach all this afternoon, and checking my messages one hundred times, and am apt to think with myself, how could I be so long without one; though I remember since, I had one, and found it a trouble, and resolved to carry one no more about me while I lived. #diary #iPhone #screenaddict
Marcel Proust: Timehop
32 YEARS AGO THURS
Aunt Leonie’s madeleines are THE. BEST. EVER. OMG.
Edith Wharton: Pinterest
The most perilous coquetry may not be in a woman’s way of arranging her dress but in her way of arranging her drawing-room. Check out my boards on drawing-rooms, boudoirs, and morning-rooms for inspiration.
Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller: Whatsapp
I want to do things so wild with you that I don’t know how to say them without end-to-end encryption. 9:33 pm
Ernest Hemingway: Pokémon GO
You are catching me, Gyarados, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen greater CP, or more beautiful combat stats, or a more noble Dragon Pulse possessed by a water type than you, brother. Come on and catch me. After trading in those 400 Magikarp candies, I do not care who catches who.
Franz Kafka: Snapchat
As Franz Kafka awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he was relieved to find the Snaps he had taken of himself with that insect filter had disappeared overnight.
Fyodor Dostoevsky: Twitch
But gamers know how a man can sit for almost twenty-four hours watching League of Legends, without looking to right, or to left, except to get more Doritos and Red Bull.
Adam Smith: Venmo
All money is a matter of belief that your friend will remember to use his invisible hand to Venmo you for the tapas last night.
Truman Capote: Yelp
Tiffany & Co.
Came here multiple times for breakfast. The service was terrible—no coffee refills, had to eat my pastry out of a paper bag, basically waited forever for a table. Would only give it one star, but the jewelry is beautiful and the place had this amazing smell of silver and alligator wallets.
C.S. Lewis, Hugo Dyson and J.R.R. Tolkien: GroupMe
JRR: Who’s in for brunch at the Bird and Babe? Got some new stuff to read.
Hugo: After church works for me.
CS: So in!
JRR: You guys are so awesome, I’d suspect you had hobbit-blood in your venerable ancestry.
CS: Lol. I’ll bring the twenty-sided.
H.P. Lovecraft: 4chan
Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places. I prefer 4chan’s /b/ board.
Robert Frost: Waze
I took the road less traveled by,
And that made about 20 minutes of difference.