The Internet Of Quotes


 The Internet Of Quotes

The internet loves quotes.  To spend time online is to be bombarded by everything from cheeseball inspirational quotes, to inaccurate or misattributed quotes, to brilliant summary-type quotes.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” This quote is usually attributed to Voltaire but was said by Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

Quotes are a part on online culture and are in many ways a perfect fit for our online selves.  They’re short, look good on pictures, can make us appear smart, and can be the difference between us clicking the link, or not.

Some people use quotes brilliantly.  For example, the peerless Maria Popova (@brainpicker) reads everything in the world so we don’t have to and then delivers the essence of the subject in bite-size chunks.

There’s fitness-type quotes,  quotes that assure us our struggle will make us stronger, quotes that remind us we’re unique, quotes reminding us most greats once failed, and my personal favourite, break-up quotes.


Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against quotes.  I remember sitting in English class when I was 17 as my teacher read Hamlet to us, accents and all.  He was so good at these readings that 10 minutes into every class an attentive hush would descend as our imaginations left the room and visited 1601 Denmark.  Hamlet, forever on the brink of action but seemingly incapable of taking any, realises and accepts that most things are in the hands of fate when he says:

If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to
come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come—the
readiness is all.

The readiness is all.  This quote, and more importantly its context, struck me like a punch in the chest that caused my heart to skip a beat.  So much so that 20 years later I got the quote tattooed on my arm.


Context is the key

The readiness is all‘ loses much of it’s meaning when it’s read out of context.  That’s the problem with the ubiquitous nature of quotes, something is lost when they’re all around us.  When I see a quote carved in stone, for example, it carries much more meaning than one in my twitter feed.  Why?  Maybe I’m a quote snob but as a friend of mine pointed out to me earlier when a quote is used too often it becomes a cliche and cliches, though often true, carry less power than original phrases.

The best songs, plays, movies, books, poems, etc, all the stuff that sticks with us long after we see, hear, or read it are full of original phrases.  It’s this originality that resonates with us.  On that note, here’s a great scene from perhaps the most quote-ful of movies, Glengarry Glen Ross.  Enjoy


This was meant to be a post containing quotes from a book I'm reading written by my next guest, Andy Puddicombe, but I got seriously distracted!.


It's good to talk

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