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A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Communication: Writing on Walls

As a writer, being a keen observer is helpful.  We learn from what we see…we learn from what we feel, what we experience.  As someone who delves into the world of written communication, it is very beneficial to be an observer.

Written communication…humans have a need to do it–from earliest man– telling his stories on cave walls, to the author of Gilgamesh using clay tablets to share one of the earliest works of literature… And let us not leave out the people of recent ancient-history; they found their walls too.

On Daniela Renelt’s blog Idiots and Earthquakes  , on the right side, there is a quote taken from the translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

And along with humans’ need to share their news, their opinions, their stories…conveniently, some type of wall has existed.  And walls have always been a pretty darned convenient place to do it.

Back in a more recent ancient-history than the days of Gilgamesh–my youthful years I allude to, people communicated on walls.

Public walls.

I could go to the closest department store and head to the ladies’ room to catch up on the news.  Who loved whom. Who was going to love someone ’4ever’.  Which girls hated which other girls–and even the details of why, were often included; they usually mentioned a boy as the reason.
Sometimes, there was even poetry left behind by persons who, regardless of attempt, succeeded in displaying far more silliness than talent.

Cat fights?  You  bet. They made their way to walls of infamy.  Phone numbers?  Phone numbers adorned them–and I might add that those were landline numbers to the only phone in a house, one that a mom or dad might answer.

I was not much on the news, but did check them to make sure that my name or number was not listed among them.  I never wanted to be written about on those walls.

But the words failed to live on beyond their authors–unlike the translated words shared on Daniela’s blog.  Each time the foulest of the foul news was shared, the department store sent a hapless employee to paint the bathroom a new color.

Having said all that, I am going to share an observation I recently made. I make no claim that it will hold true in your part of the world, and no claim that I am the first to make this observation…but I found it interesting.  And I wonder if others are noticing it in their necks of the woods.

Today, we still have a penchant for communicating–and for writing on walls.  But I don’t see it on public walls anymore.  I even see far less artwork graffiti. (I liked the artwork graffiti by the way-the impromptu art scattered in out of the way–and often unexpected, places).

Have humans found a new wall? I think that might be the case.  Cellphone texts (and forwards), Twitter, facebook, and other Social Networking Sites.  The communications have moved beyond tangible walls, to those in the untouchable world of near-magic digital display.

Much of the same type news-sharing goes on.  The bullying continues. And I have have even witnessed cat-fights between forty-something-year-olds.  And I feel much the same way now when I read it as when I did back in more recent ancient-times.

But now…the news may very well outlive the authors who wrote it.  Granted, so much “news” is compiled on digital walls, that juicy and embarrassing tidbits will likely never emerge to embarrass a grandchild.  But, the possibility exists.

There is something to be said for those digital walls, though. How about the love posts?  I do see great poetry, kind posts, and humans lifting other humans out of dark places–all on those walls…

Some things never really change. Humans' need to communicate and a way to make it happen…

You know, I think I am going to my Twitter and facebook walls right now, and I am going to post Dave+Teresa 4ever…

What do you think?  Have you noticed a decrease in graffiti in your neck of the woods?

Could what we write on social network sites be replacing it?


  1. I think you hit it on the head! Everyone carries a cell phone with them now so they don't need a pen to mark up the walls. So true!!! :O)

  2. That is such an interesting observation. You're right. I hardly ever see graffiti anymore and I'm sure you're right about the internet being the place where we let all that out!

  3. So true, and a great observation. Around where I live there is not much graffiti around, so I cannot say I can see a difference from the past. Graffiti is usually done at a public place, for anyone to see. Usually it has a significance to the author, he or she wants to make a statement, visible to the public.

    But there is not much interaction between the author and the reader, other than someone not agreeing with the statement made could whitewash the wall it was written on, erasing it for others to read.

    The 'Wall' nowadays is - thanks to the Social Media and widespread use on the internet - immensely larger than the brick walls from yesteryear. ANY blog, tweet, FaceBook post, anything electronically distributed to billions of readers is available in mere seconds. AND the readers can react. The Arab Revolution would never have happened that fast without the WALL we call internet.

  4. Hi Diane, thanks for making the time to read this! It was just one of those odd things that jumped out at me while I was Christmas shopping. I started to really pay attention then, and waited to be sure that that was what I was (not) seeing in my travels. Then it was time to invite others to wonder about it too. :-)

  5. Hi Johanna, Thank you for making the time to read this. I have to share this with you--every time I see your name, I think 'that is so lyrical', then I wonder if your parents were musicians! :-) I really think we are on to something about the graffiti. You know the one place that I still never fail to see the artwork type of graffiti? At the small rail yard as I pass over top of it on the four-lanes near here. But, the artist could be from anywhere. Still, the idea of such a cultural change is fascinating. :-) Thanks, again :-)

  6. Hey JB! Thanks for visiting :-) Absolutely--the internet is reshaping the world as we know it.
    One of the earliest observations I made was about the price of antiques lowering, leveling and then stabilizing there. The antique store is now a global marketplace. It must have been shortly after the year 2000, a secretary at work who knew that I collected Blue-willow (Dish pattern)called me into the office and showed me something she had come across on Ebay. It was a vinegar and oil cruet set. Rare, I was sure. Unique--in all my shopping and searching I had NEVER seen anything like it. The necks of the bottles were wrapped around each other like lovers. We watched the bids for the next two days, and when there were only minutes left, it suddenly shot up to 169 dollars. Needless to say, I didn't bid on it. I had growing children to feed :-) But I recall thinking--with sinking heart, that I would never, ever, see anything like that again. Several years later, just out of curiosity I searched Blue-willow to see what was available. Not to buy, just to look. And lo and behold, there was a cruet set like the one from years before. It sold for 27 bucks. There is Blue-willow all the time that doesn't even sell. The law of supply and demand is in full swing online. Someone, somewhere in the world has what you want, maybe several someones... Antique stores have to be experiencing a real bad time over this...

    Thanks again for stopping by :-)

  7. Now, with everyone being constantly online and observed at all times (at least it feels like that), people are very deliberate when leaving messages on Facebook or Twitter walls. Usually, they don't make the "grand gestures" in writing like the ones we read in big graffiti letters on walls of old office buildings or bridges. "Macht kaputt was euch kaputt macht" ("Destroy what destroys you") was one of the messages left behind by an angry Teenager when I grew up and it was highly politically charged and a wildly discussed statement by us equally-troubled Teens at that time. There was a whole movement in support of this way of life!

    I feel like the daily oversupply of status messages now takes away from the urgency of those other, more universal observations about life, political pleas and even declarations of love. I really miss those. When I read about your idea of T & D forever, it really made me smile. It just shows a certain type of boldness, that I think is lost in daily social network communication with everyone worried about the etiquette and the fear of looking stupid in front of their bosses. But I'm sure people would really want to read the bold statements and enjoy it a lot, because in the end they really say something wonderful and profound, something you won't easily forget about the person who wrote them. :)

  8. Interesting thoughts, Daniela. Yes, the anonymity of writing on tangible, public walls does not exist for digital walls, in most cases. And accountability, alone, would lead us to self-restrict what we post.

    "Macht kaputt was euch kaputt macht" Fascinating. I wonder if (in the developed world) your generation might be the last to turn to public walls--old buildings, railroad overpasses, and bathroom walls to share your thoughts, your joy, your anger, your hate--and your love--at least to the extent that it has been used in the past. I am pretty sure you are about the same age as my daughter--my oldest child. Here, her generation is the transition group--the change between the slower paced ways of communicating (the infancy of non-face-to-face communication) that my generation experienced, and the children being born today who will never know about our ways of communicating other than in history books.

    I think that there is a grave over-exposure to status "updates", messages, tweets, emails (forwards). They make me wonder about how desensitized we humans could possibly become--not to communications,but actually communicating, if you know what I mean?

    "But I'm sure people would really want to read the bold statements and enjoy it a lot, because in the end they really say something wonderful and profound, something you won't easily forget about the person who wrote them. :)"

    Bold--without insult or ignorance--is so much better than the too oft seen, watered down, safe for the boss to see, statements :-)

    Thanks for stopping, Daniela; you always have such interesting insight. :-)

  9. Nice article, Teresa. I hardly see "real wall" graffiti anymore. =) Thanks for the lovely comment on Dana's Blah Blah. Have a great weekend!

    P.S. Dana hearts Darryl!

  10. Hi Teresa. Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. This is a very interesting post--well observed and articulated. I don't see much graffiti where I live. I'm sure there are many who would say it's a good thing. Admirers of Banksy probably don't think so...unless they own one of his originals.

  11. Awe, Dana, that is so sweet > "Dana hearts Darryl!" I have this sudden urge to go to Paint Shop and make an image for this blog ;-) You are welcome for the comment. I will be back to visit again. And thank you for stopping by and taking time to read this post :-)

  12. Valentina...I had never heard of "Banksy" so I did a quick search. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banksy and learned a thing or two about graffiti!

    Reading about the graffiti movement made me think about years ago when my husband was in Pittsburgh PA USA. He was in an old abandoned building--big and dark inside, but he said that it was full of metal sculptures made out of scavenged trash--by an anonymous (likely street) artist. He said that they had crudely constructed jigs to bend the metal around. He thought it amazing and such a shame...there, hidden in the midst of a blighted area of closed Steel Mills and old factories, such amazing talent.

    Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. I will stop and visit your blog again! :-)

  13. Very cool observation, Teresa! We humans always have a need to connect with others, and now we have more walls than ever to write on! I don't have anyone to 'heart' yet. Perhaps one day-till then I heart my children! Sally

  14. Hi Sally! It is the most special, and truly "4-ever" kind of love that we moms have for our children...

    Thank you for stopping and reading this post :-) !

  15. I think that's a really great analogy, Teresa! In Seattle when I was growing up, there was an overpass where someone would paint "Buddy Holly Lives." I didn't understand it then, and don't understand it now, but it makes a tad more sense than a lot of the Facebook posts that I see everyday! :) Great post!

  16. Oh, that made me chuckle, Jim! It was a rather nice way of saying it-- some of the posts don't make a lot of sense. But I reckon that somewhere, sitting at a keyboard, someone is just grinning from ear to ear while thinking how cool, indifferent, worldly, or *gasp* brilliant they must now appear to the world. Ah, I shouldn't poke fun. We all want to be heard...we all want to be acknowledged... Thanks so much for stopping by and making the time to read this post! :-)

  17. I still find writing on public walls, mostly in bathrooms, quite fascinating. The messages written are of pure hate or love...nevertheless Teresa, a very nice piece written on a rather much ignored topic!!

  18. It is fascinating, Marjaan...our very human need to communicate--to be heard. I digress--sort of. When I visited Texas several years ago, my friends took me to a couple of places that fascinated me. Luckenbach (made famous in a country song) and a locally famous barbeque, and at both places, the untreated wood (walls, door frames, picnic tables etc. All had been signed by patrons. We left our names behind, along with the rest. I wonder...are they still there, or faded and covered over by another group who were having so much fun? What is it about us (humans) that make us want to leave a bit of ourselves behind? :-) Thank you for stopping and reading this :-) !