For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
The above six words is one of the most perturbing, shortest stories ever written. Believed to have been penned by Ernest Hemingway in the 1920s, the apocryphal legend goes that he had laid a wager that he can write a story in six words. This inspired a whole new genre called flash fiction – the chief feature of which is brevity.
With the advent of online social media platforms and websites we faced a new medium that was ironically both that supported a number of hyperlinks and information but also restricted our comments to 140 to 280 characters, emojis and minimalist expression. The current reader prefers snippets of everything – a "news in sixty words" through Inshorts or details through hashtags and small picture stories. This wave of short conversations and expressions has also encroached into the literary arena.
Flash fiction can be considered a prototype to today's Instagram poetry and thought-provoking tiny tales that dominate our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feed. With poets like @rupikaur_, @atticuspoetry, @nikita_gill and writers like Rahul Kaushik and countless others, getting an established fan base equivalent to any traditional writer, we see how the online medium becomes a legitimate platform for writers who want to leave a mark.
Instagram pages like Terribly Tiny Tales (ttt) and Scribbled Stories have garnered a huge following and pave way for budding writers to present their work. While select writers are endorsed on their Insta handle, ttt also captures the audience and makes them interact through the timely prompts they release online. Users can comment with their poems, stories and musings or use hashtags and write on their individual handles. This enables more writers to write and read online, and is also an easy platform to get published, get noticed.
While people may find it endearing due to the current relevance and unabashed manner in which poets like Kaur and Gill embrace womanhood, teenage angst and other mortal tensions, others may like to read the tiny tales and poems due to the diligent use of words and the ease of language using catch phrases, slang and daily conversational material that seem to be fading out of face to face conversations but remain alive through chat boxes, as Insta user spira_patil notes. The themes are often contemporary, hard-hitting and thus relatable to all.
Online forums have thus encouraged and made publication easy for all who want to express through words, caricatures, pictures and sketches. An innovative blend of her sketches and words gives Kaur an edge over the others, letting her sketches further establish what her poems wish to convey. Taking a cue from their success, many artists are opening their own Insta pages, archiving their verses, thoughts of dissent, and unending musings. It is only the easiness and accessibility of social media that is prompting students and adults alike to establish their online base.
Flux must always be embraced and new forms of literary pursuits must keep coming to keep the field bountiful. With the most prestigious literary award, the Nobel, being awarded to the popular singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, the vistas of what constitutes literature is widening. Thus, despite the harsh criticism that online poetry and stories faced from traditional critics, they have become an integral part of the literary world by the very choice of its readers.
So for all the lazy pen-wielders who easily lose heart from the novel or story they begin writing, Instagram poetry and ttt is just the thing for you. Five lines, 10-20 words is all it takes to make the right impact, get a fair readership base!