How Literature is Changing in the 21st Century

How Literature is Changing in the 21st Century


Within our age of the Internet, literature necessarily isn’t dying as some people insist. Instead, it’s shaping itself in ways to appropriately accommodate modern technology. Blogs have given independent writers and corporations the opportunity to publish whenever they desire. Newspapers and magazines now hold completely digital subscription services. Likewise, novels are finding their way from the page to the screen.

Social media is only fueling a new literary trend. Web sites like Twitter allow for publications in 160 words or less. Though this might seem like an insufficient means for receiving information, the use of the hashtag has only made more convenience for web surfers. A hashtag unites many publications together, offering a variety of opinions and voices for people to read. Likewise, social media uses online forums as a way to connect people on the issues they wish to discuss.

However, when it comes to traditional-based publications such as novels and playwrights, we are seeing a diminish in interest. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the most notable are that people want to receive information at quicker rates. The internet allows for readers to digest stories within a matter of minutes (or even seconds).

Let’s say someone is scrolling around online publications for an hour. Within that time, they will have overviewed a wide diversity of information. This is becoming the preferred method for one simple reason. People are finding more interest in having an abundance at their disposal.

The Skills of the Modern Writer

Since literature in the 21st-century is constantly expanding and changing, it’s becoming more and more difficult to define what it means to be literate. There are certain expectations for modern writers that can be considered as unwritten rules.

As an author, I must have the ability to analyze lots of information in a short amount of time, enough technological skills, and an awareness and an open mind to many cultures. Without these traits, my writing would never be able to keep up with the fast-paced expectations of today.

Since I am in competition with so many other authors, the reader is left in an opportune situation. They have the ability to go from my publication to many other publications on the same issue. Allowing themselves to gain a variety opinions while forming their own perspective.

To discover information in this regard is almost revolutionary. Being that we can expose ourselves to so many different points of views in a matter of seconds, it’s necessary we gain a solid understanding of what we want to hear. Therefore, since we’ve been revealed to so many opinions, our own opinion becomes not only more solidified but more open to something new.

This puts the writer in a peculiar situation. Since research on a topic can come in many forms (writing publications, an online video, television), we must have the ability to gather loads of information at once. As a writer, I have to properly gain this information and then give it back in my own words. In order to stand out amongst the competition, those words must be strikingly original and efficient in opinion.

As mentioned, my technological skills must also be up to par. The only way I would be able to go about receiving and writing such a large amount of information is if I know how to suitably surf the internet. This entails in not just understanding which publications are accurate but also making sure I can confirm this accuracy on-the-nose. If I were to fail at this, my writing would suffer in being illegitimate and sloppy.

The last skill I must trait is holding an awareness and open mind to a variety of cultures. One of the spectacles the internet has to offer is breaking the barriers amongst different ways of life. People have shown much interest in this as they can understand themselves through mediums that might not be found in their culture. As a writer, it’s important to work across these cultural barriers in order to find common ground.

This article is the perfect example of how all these skills come into play. As I write, I research intensely to find what it is that affects the modern reader. Through my technological skills, I’m allowed to do my studying at a sufficient rate. Since reading is something that every culture takes upon themselves, I’m not just talking to English speakers. I’m talking to any type of reader that uses the internet.

Out With the Traditional, In With the Repetitional

Let’s observe the train of thought in modern day. Specifically I talk in terms of the youth. You have just learned how a writer of the new generation must go about the process of writing. I wish to now present what goes on in the reader’s head as they receive so much information.

It has been scientifically proven that technology has caused millennials to think at quicker rates. Carol Affleck explains in an article entitled The Rewired Generation that today’s youth are like lab rats in a maze. The maze being the internet. The lab test being the way our minds will configure to the internet.

She says that in a study done by Science Magazine, college students were tested on how much their memories could sustain. It showed that frequent internet users were twice as active within their short-term memory. This is viable when considering Google to be the new library.

However, this also gives a sense as to why traditional-based publications (novels and playwrights) are losing interest. To sufficiently ingest those types of information, a long-term memory is required. Whereas hopping from one internet article to the next requires only short-term memory.

This is why authors are forced to change the way they format their writing. The memory of the reader is no longer as calculated as it once was. Rather, it shows intuitive traits. In a survey done by the security firm Kaspersky Lab, six thousand people were questioned on their ability to remember answers. The majority of those tested forgot the information and went to Google. Some just gave up, assuming any answer can be found on the internet.
This type of behavior plays a large role in the content we read and why we read it. As with any other time period, we are seeking out information that interests what’s happening in the present world. Yet, the difference with our time is we want that information at a faster rate. With our access to anything and everything, we could be seeking out more to read than what might be necessary.

There’s the idea that knowledge is limitless. With all the world’s knowledge a click away, it makes sense that readers want to see it all. However, because that consistent information has been proven to succumb us to short-term memory, most of this information is soon forgotten.

Therefore, we may feel as though that we are learning more. But in actuality, we are only a quick witness to a range of different topics. Rather than sitting down and digesting a single topic, we crave it all with one swallow. This puts the writer in a sticky situation as they must learn how to keep up with everything happening and remain intriguing with their words.


Technology is changing the literature of the 21st-century in two ways. It’s making the writer become a fast learner and an informational wizard. And it’s making the reader want more and more while retaining less and less. There are pros and cons to this sort of behavior in our society.

As for the pros, I consider them the easy fix. Whenever a problem arises within our lives, we have the ability to figure out a variety of options in solving it. For essays or anything that requires research, we have an encyclopedia at our fingertips. There’s so much information available to us that we can relax in gaining more knowledge than any generation prior.

As for the cons, I consider them the unintentional consequence. With so much information, we end up forgetting a good majority of it. Thinking this over, one question continuously prospers in my head. If we end us losing sight over the majority of what we learn, is there any point in learning it at all?

Obviously, society must continue to learn in order to progress. Yet, is the way we’re learning sufficient enough to progress?

Artwork by Heath Scholl

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