Dickens and Social Media–A Match Made in Heaven

Social media, particularly that of Twitter and Facebook, is known for the speed with which it transmits ideas from one individual to global awareness. Moreover, social media is characterized by the way in which it allows each of its users to be heard by a multitude—every person has an audience who will read and listen, regardless of their desire and of the content. In creating Household Words and All the Year Round, Dickens, in essence, generated a proto-social media form for the spreading of his and his associates thoughts. Suddenly, through the use of his magazines, Dickens had the capacity to be heard and felt in the within the physical, domestic space of each member of his audience. And although he lacked the rapidity of thought felt on social media, the monthly nature of his magazines was revolutionary in its reach and ubiquity.
Thus, it’s not a far cry to consider a modern Dickens utilizing social media. He was a man that wanted to be heard and taken seriously. He felt his ideas to be socially constructive, and he used his art and business skills to assert them on all who could afford a shilling and half per month to purchase them. Furthermore, like the celebrity culture amassed across the faces of Twitter and Facebook, Dickens utilized a well-thought balance between his work, his thoughts, self-promotion and the promotion of other’s work and ideas. Household Words reads like a long-winded Twitter feed—begging its audience to absorb opinions, narratives and promotions. And not unlike other forms of social media—like YouTube and Instagram—there is a perhaps unhealthy dose of advertisement strewn across its pages, laid gently and beautifully between texts, characters and plot-lines. The beginning of the inundation of material we neither desire nor need.
In this sense, Dickens would not have needed social media except for greater promotion and reach. He was already adored in his time, and his thoughts were universally known and felt. He impacted his culture and society through the reach of his language, and as such foregrounded the sort of celebrity culture we see today.

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