Technology in Contemporary Fiction

If you read any of contemporary fiction you will most definitely encounter characters’ actions relying upon modern gadgets and media, meaning smartphones and social media, mostly twitter and facebook.

Take for example Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by  Gail Honeyman or The Outsider by Stephen King. In both of these stories, characters are using twitter and facebook but unlike wasting time, these people are actually finding some valuable information for story development which is reasonable because otherwise, it would be just a commercial for the networks or the Apple; keep in mind that they mostly use Apple products.

If you’re writing fiction and your setting includes a modern era, the question arises whether you should or shouldn’t build it around social media, iPads, and iPhones.

On one hand, if you’re not including any of the modern stuff, you are removing a certain amount of reality from your story; unless you’re writing about a Buddhist monk or someone living under a rock. Therefore you want to write about all the goodies that come with the 21st century, right?

On the other hand, if you are building your story and characters’ behavior around tech stuff, you can’t predict how relevant would it be 10 years from now. It could be said that you might be writing a story for limited amount of years.

Imagine someone reading your book 50, or maybe just 10 years from now, and thinking – what the hell is facebook? The same applies when teenagers read a book from 90’s – What? They didn’t have WiFi?

The technological advancement is so rapid that the things which are relevant today are history tomorrow. Does anyone remember flip phones or phones with the visible antenna when the only thing you could do with it is to make a call and send/read text messages?

If you read some of the classics, you can get along with the fact that they didn’t have cars, or electricity because that change didn’t happen overnight. It took decades if not centuries to switch from one world to another. These changes are much easier to comprehend and it didn’t really matter whether a car had a manual gear shift or it was automatic while the difference between having a cell phone or calling the cops from the nearest phonebooth means a lifesaving change.

The thing is that nobody can predict what’s the next big technological change going to be and in what manner is it going to change the way we see the world. Also, nobody knows how forgetful current things are going to be. Take for example MySpace or AOL – nobody is talking about them anymore, but some of us still know what they are, and if you don’t know, you can always google it.

I am still not sure what’s the right thing to do. If you exclude modern stuff, how appealing will it be to the young audience? If you include it, how appealing is it going to be in 10 years from now?

To me, it seems like an unanswerable dilemma. If you win now, you might lose in 10 years. If you lose now, you might never win, but you might also win when all of the tech stuff becomes so irrelevant that nobody will care whether your character tweeted something or not.

In the end, my advice is to stop worrying about that because, after all, it might not be important at all. Just do whatever feels right at the moment and hope for the best.