Poe in Cyberspace: To Like, Friend, or Follow? Poe in Social Media
Edgar Allan Poe Review, Spring 2014
Heyward Ehrlich, Rutgers Newark

He considered calling them “Random Thoughts,” “Odds and Ends,” “Stray Leaves,” “Scraps,” even “Brevities.” When Poe first published a selection of these short comments in the Southern Literary Messenger in August 1836 he settled on the title “Pinakidia.” Over time, Poe published over more than 600 of these miniature essays, varying in size from one sentence to several paragraphs, and a selection of 226 followed in the Marginalia section of vVolume. 3 of his posthumous Works (1850) on The Literati, a loosely related series,. More recently, in assembling these short pieces in vVolume. 2 of his Collected Writings (1985), Burton Pollin revived Poe’s rejected title, The Brevities. Throughout his career, Poe habitually produced casual works of this kind to fill pages, to reach out to magazine readers who might have been put off by his more demanding poems, tales, and literary criticisms, and to exploit audience dynamics in ways that anticipate today’s popular social media.

Poe took his initial title “Pinakidia” from the Greek for tablet, now also the name of digital hardware for social networking. Although Poe later claimed that he copied these paragraphs into commonplace books while reading, he admitted that many were re-borrowed from standard bibliophile collections, such as Disraeli’s Curiosities of Literature. What Poe achieved in these mini-essays was a way— -- to use contemporary jargon— -- to recycle and repurpose his reading. By re-using paragraphs that already had been published and then anthologized, Poe was in a manner vending thrice- told tales. Baudelaire in France took Marginalia as a serious creative work, borrowing the phrasefrom “My heart laid bare” from Marginalia 194 as the title of his own journal, Mon coeur mis à nu. By contrast, American readers took a dozen or so installments of these miscellanea quite casually as they appeared in various magazines. Unlike the aesthetic Poe who advocated perfection of form in his theories, the popular Poe assumed a relaxed and conversational manner not unlike today’s Web denizens who risk very little to register a like, become a friend, or enlist as a follower, just by clicking a link on Facebook or Twitter.

Deb Kolaras asks “Would Edgar Allan Poe Blog?” on her web site, http://www.marketingjava.com/would-edgar-allan-poe-blog. We need not speculate on the question if we would be content with the massive evidence, on the other side of the coin, of public interest in Poe on social media today. Literally millions of Web postings on Poe have appeared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, and other social media, signaling a wide contemporary Poe renaissance. Aware as we are today of how digitalization has changed the making and distribution of printed books, magazines, and newspapers, we should have no difficulty understanding how the rotary press and steam power were among the disruptive technologies in Poe’s day, as traditionally weighty books and quarterly magazines were challenged by the rise of lighter new monthly magazines and daily newspapers.

Who then are the contributors to today’s Poe renaissance? Recent research has uncovered the fact that a majority of adults are now participants in social media. The proportion of persons 18 eighteen years of age or older using social media rose in 2013 to more than two-thirds, according to a Pew Research survey based on 1,800 landline and cell telephone phone interviews that were conducted in English and Spanish in the summer of 2013 and released at the end of December 2013. Among all social media sites, according to Pew Research, Facebook remains by far the most popular, visited by 71% of all adult respondents, followed by LinkedIn with 22%. The three next sites were Pinterest, 21%; Twitter, 18%; and Instagram, 17%; incidentally, 42% of all respondents used more than one social media site.

Here are some more statistics. The demographics of Facebook are remarkably even across the categories of geography, race, gender, and age; however, senior use, formerly lagging, is now increasing, and there are fewer users earning more than $50,000 a year. Among all social media, Pinterest is used most heavily by women, especially those who are well -educated, well off, suburban, and under 50fifty. As to the frequency of visits, Pew found the percentage of committed users who make daily visitors to be Facebook, 63%; Instagram, 57%, Twitter, 46%; Pinterest, 23%, and LinkedIn, 13% . Instagram has a strong following among younger adults, African -Americans, and Hispanics; Twitter does well among younger adults and African o-Americans; LinkedIn attracts more middle-aged and college- educated viewers. The power of the social media is their ability to tap the existing social networks among people as well as their desire to create virtual social contact with strangers as they maximize their collection of links. Of course not every contact on the social media is pleasant and benign; unfortunately issues persist of loss of privacy and self-esteem, claimed rising alcohol use by teenagers, and tragic instances of cyberbullying. (For more on social media usage among young adults, visit http://pewinternet.org/pewinternet.org/ or http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Social-media-users.aspx

The number of postings devoted to Poe on the social media today is staggering. Google reports that the name “Edgar Allan Poe” appears an amazing 2.,84 million0,000 times on www.facebook.comFacebook, which itself records 2.2 million likes on the Edgar Allan Poe author page. In addition, Twitter offers more than 250 screenfuls of postings, and YouTube offers 398,000 hits, followed by Tumblr with 139,000. There are lesser tallies for Poe on Pinterest, Snapchat, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Reddit, in that order. For those interested in geographical statistics of Poe on Facebook, the analytics site Social Bakers estimates that of the 2.2 million Edgar Allan Poe fans on Facebook, the international distribution is U. S., 36.05%; Mexico, 10.1%; Brazil, 5.8%; Argentina, 4.12%; Italy, 3.6%; Coloumbia, 3.01%; Spain, 2. 2%; UK, 2.0%; Chile, 1.9%; Germany, 1.8%; France, 1.5%; Canada, 1.54 %; Turkey, 1.5%; Greece, 1.3%; Peru, 1,2%;India, 1.0%; Portual, 1.0%; Phillipines, 1.0%; followed by 25 fourteen other nations with less than over 1% each. —; interestingly, all the remaining smaller national components if summed together would constitute the single largest group with 39.7%. (For details, visit http: //www.socialbakers.com/facebook-pages/262424913827667-edgar-allan-poe.)

In the academic world, the Web site of the University of Virginia Social Media website at social.virginia.edu/edgar-allen-poe/ injected itself into the dispute between Baltimore and Philadelphia over claiming rights to Poe, reminding us of the time he spent there. (Although the URL misspells Poe’s name, the correct spelling appears in the website text; the same common misspelling and a correction of it appears on Rebecca Onion’s “The Vault” on Slate.) The social media are advancing even at my own university: “Many units at Rutgers have seized on new communication opportunities to launch robust social media campaigns . . . . such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and blogs visit http://ucm.rutgers.edu/ and click on Guidelines under Using Social Media under Websites & Ecommunications). For teachers there is The tag archive for Poe at http://wheretheclassroomends.com/tag/edgar-allan-poe containing hints on using Tumblr, selecting software, and following the Poe Ttoaster. For those who enjoy multiple anachronisms, a game placing Poe and Virginia in London 1851 is available at http:////mashable.com/2013/02/06/edgar-the-game/.

Moreover, Poe sites created specifically for social media are beginning to appear. The short-lived Poetryspeaks site claimeds to be the first “collection of poetry made specifically for tweens and teens.” “To Helen,.” “A Dream Within a Dream,” “The Raven,” and “Annabel Lee” were are among its the latest uploads. to http://www.poetryspeaks.com/(search Edgar Allan Poe). Robert Pinsky, former U. S. poet laureate and poetry editor of Slate, is on the advisory board of Poetryspeaks; the site also maintains a retail partnership with Barnes & Noble.

Facebook, which claims more than a billion users each month (reportedly its posting on someone’s Facebook page can serve as a have legal noticestatus in Australia), routinely features user profiles with personal information and preferences that can be shared by friends and acquaintances— – and also, quite unexpectedly, by a growing number of investigators, including the media, employers, advertisers, the police, disability and entitlement administrators, and the NSA. Facebook offers not only public messages, private communications, and social chat but also news, e-mail, voice and video calling, and a “wall” on which others can post messages. Its celebrated like button can express approval of almost anything (there is no “dislike” button), and it also offers a way to friend (befriend) someone. In 2009, the New Oxford American Dictionary declared unfriend, —“to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook,”— to be its word of the year.

Three book publishers maintain pages on the Facebook page “Edgar Allan Poe aAuthor page,” namely —Vintage Books, Alfred A. Knopf, and the Everyman Library; so —as do the Poe-related institutions the Baltimore Museum, Poe Cottage, National Historic Ssite, and J. P. Morgan Library. In single pass I found postings for Poe works, organizations, web sites, museums, landmarks, places named Poe, Poe fans, Poe as surname, Poe as singer or performer, acronyms, quotes, remarks, appreciations, merchandise, Harry Clarke and other illustrators (often without credit), graphics, art, posters, comic strips, toys, movies (as well as movie posters and movie investment opportunities), videos, music and music albums, photographs, advertisements, newspaper clippings, Poe’s family, cross-postings to Facebook pages and other wWeb sites, Web-based foundations and organizations, parodies, mash-ups, meetings, events, Poe performances, memorabilia, the Poe burial site, celebrations of significant dates in Poe’s life, Poe pub crawls, Poe and cats, literary insults, news of defacement of Poe’s Baltimore house, Halloween celebrations, book covers, Andy Warhol–-style graphics, manuscript auctions, “Poe boy” puns, Poe-themed T-shirts, Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards, the Poe 42 forty-two-cent postage stamp, Poe signatures, and Poe in reprints and anthologies, with many duplications. Some entries are in Spanish, and a few are in Italian. (Incidentally, if you do a Google search of Facebook on other national domains, such as the French .fr, the German .de, or the Spanish .es, you will be redirected to some variant of the United StatesU.S. .com domain.) Some postings are graphically rather sophisticated, and indicating perhaps that instruction on making complicated how to make Facebook pages has become an industry in itself. Indeed, Amazon offers for sale 17,304 items pertaining specifically to the Facebook site.

The page at https:////www.facebook.com/PoeKnows, also known as “The Macabre Edgar Allan Poe,” claims 233,000 likes, has deep entries in its well-illustrated time line, beginning in reaching back to 2009 (continuing thinly to 1809 with some basics of Poe biography), and offers about 40 forty screenfuls of items, not all of them weird.

On Twitter the Poe page https:////twitter.com/Edgar_Allan_Poe claims 2,927894 tweets, 1,1260 following, and 92,18389,424 followers. Each item among its several hundred screenfuls initially displays as a stub of just a few words (what is shorter than a tweet?), expandable to its full length of 140 characters. Perhaps reflecting a less mature clientele who are testing the limits, many of its Poe tweets are morbid, cynical, and even impolite.

Pinterest, which describes itself as “a tool for collecting and organizing things you love,” operates like a refrigerator door bulletin board with 394 pins and 2,248 followers, leading to more than 300 screenfuls that are filled with illustrations, graphics, books, and merchandise relating to Poe at http:////www.pinterest.com/thinkorange/edgar-allan-poe/. A collection group of Poe images collected by Rachel Engstrom is can be found at http://www.pinterest.com/r4engstr/poe-edgar-allan/. Another collection of Poe images is at http://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=edgar%20allan%20poe.

A search for “Edgar Allan Poe video” on YouTube reports 262,000 items, oddly more than the 222,000 reported for “Edgar Allan Poe” alone. The matches can be sorted by relevance, date, length, and viewers. By searching for combinations of “Edgar Allan Poe” with other keywords I found these results: films, 108,000; tales, 69,900; “The Raven,” 51,500; readings, 48,600; poems, 42,700; animations, 40,600; houses, 36,200; images, 28,200; documentary, 28,000; criticism, 16,400; performances, 18,300; parodies, 8,000; museums, 5,580; lectures, 5,370; mash-ups, 3,460; satires, 1,330; and burlesque, 631.

There are 12,000 Poe followers on Google +Plus, who post fan page snippets, comments, graphics, and GIF animations, at plus.google.com/and on the related site, http://aboutedgarallanpoe.com, enthusiasts have posted many short quotes surrounded by unexpectedly large graphics.

An interesting page on Tumblr invites users to compete in a “Put a Poe oOn It” contest for printable objects such as Tt-shirts and aprons at http://putapoeonit.tumblr.com/. Among the contest entries I found animations (three dancing girls with Poe heads decapitated by a flying raven) and visual puns (a pocket full of Poes[ies] on blue jeans). Visit the siteGo to putapoeonit.tumblr.com and scroll down for links to the contest winners. On other sites, LinkedIn may have more Poe scholars in the future but I found only two postings, one by the Poe Society of Prague and another by a scholar of Poe and cinema at Cornell. Since my tests were done with a desktop PC computer, I was not able to gain access to Instagram, which requires an iIOS or Android smartphone or tablet.

Finally, one measure of the Poe renaissance online is that its 2.2 million likes on his Facebook a“Author” site far outstrip the combined popularity of the next ten 19th nineteenth-century American writers; they rank there (by thousands) as follows: Mark Twain,; 811K;, Walt Whitman, 180K;, Emily Dickinson, 174K;, Henry David Thoreau, 143K ; Ralph Waldo Emerson, 121K; Henry James, 46K; Nathaniel Hawthorne, 39K; Frederick Douglass, 35K; and Herman Melville, 32K. To see what hundreds, perhaps thousands, of college teachers are doing now with Poe social media in the classroom, Ggoogle “social media college teachers Eedgar Aallan Ppoe” – —the initial results merit deeper exploration. Unprecedentedly mammoth in its size, the social media response to Poe may seem a limitless haystack in which only a few needles stand out, such as one a memorable one being on The Macabre Edgar Allan Poe site, which, in keeping with its theme, ventures this pun in its graphical parody of the famous UK World War II poster: “Keep Calm and Carrion.”

“Poe in Cyberspace” columns are archived online at eapoe.info.