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Juxtaposition and Context

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what friendslists and RSS feeds do to the experience of reading online.

You can’t control who you’re next to — what someone will have just read when they come to what you’ve written.

A sincere but glibly written post about my cat shows up next to someone else’s memorial to Lloyd Alexander, next to someone else’s delighted reaction to a tv show, next to someone else’s news about upcoming readings, next to someone else’s eloquent and bitter reflections about Jerry Falwell.

Obviously, this is true offline, too. I have no way of knowing what else people have been reading, or watching, or listening to, or, hell, just doing, when they pick up something I’ve written.

But somehow, when words that have come from such different places — literally as well as figuratively — show up on the same screen, they change.

Glib feels more glib when it’s next to grief.

I don’t know that there’s anything to be done about this, but it often strikes me.

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