Frog croaking

Why Am I So Obsessed with Quotes?

Rose` All Day

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll notice that I share quotes. A lot of quotes. Several every day. Quotes of different kinds (though many contemplating mortality) from different people throughout history. What’s wrong with me? No one asked or complained yet, but I’m curious about why I am so obsessed with quotes.

I’m not the only one of course. In fact, most of the quotes I get are from this newsletter, this app, and this browser plugin. Obviously, these things would not exist if I were their sole customer. So the question, broadly, could be, why are we so obsessed with quotes?

My generation is so obsessed with quotes that we have a whole design aesthetic dedicated to it. I may or may not have a “namastay in bed” quote in my bedroom. But, why? This post offers one possible explanation: it’s damned hard to express yourself in words sometimes. However, that isn’t why I compulsively post and tweet them. I may be tooting my own horn, but words have been my things for most of my life. I play word games. Write. Read. College-educated. Surely there must be other explanations.

The External

There are many listicles I could link to with reasons why you should read motivational or positive quotes (like this one from a blog that looks like it’s a little sketch and meant to sell ads and regurgitated positive psychology books). However, I’m going to stop trying to run away from the question to find someone else’s answer. Because, that’s exactly why I, and probably many others, turn to quotes: to find someone else’s wisdom.

I don’t mean to imply that everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten (see what I did there?), or that we should eschew the wisdom of others, especially time-tested knowledge passed down from our cultures, religions, and elders. I simply mean that perhaps we focus too much on the external, seeking other’s answers because it’s easier or less scary than digging in and discovering our own. I’m as guilty of this as anyone.

The Quotes Are Coming

But why now? Why are quotes everywhere? I think there’s a simple answer for that: mass media. It started with the spoken word, of course. Humans passed stories and wisdom down verbally from generation to generation. The written word enabled us to capture that wisdom so that we may learn it and review it even if the keeper of that knowledge wasn’t there, provided you could read of course. The invention of the printing press made it even easier, cheaper, and more beneficial to know how to read and capture and learn.

It’s not a coincidence that the rise of the modern novel began after the invention of the printing press. However, this still required the resources to acquire books and the ability to read, which was uncommon even during the Enlightenment. The Industrial Revolution made it possible for more to afford books, and public education taught more and more to read.

Then we have cinema, and radio, and television, which made it even easier to consume stories and knowledge. This led to movie and TV quotes and song lyrics making their way into the common vernacular. Finally, we come to the Internet and the smartphone, which make almost the entire store of human knowledge and achievement available to those who have unhindered access to the technology. We can easily search up not just a single piece of wisdom but dozens on hundreds of topics. We inundate ourselves with the collected wisdom of the world if we want, and some of us do.

Smelling My Own Farts

I use quotes as a way to think about life (and death) and the various situations and experiences that encompass it. I share them because I hope others find value, wisdom, and inspiration in them, just as I do. But, perhaps, I don’t dig deep enough into my psyche to find some of my own.

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