Wednesday, December 8

Wattpad, the social network where young people get hooked on reading or writing stories

On many occasions we cling to certain stereotypes when having everyday conversations. We went to them to press the button next in seemingly innocent talk, without realizing that we add sediments riddled with prejudices that feed false ideas about reality. Thus, “young people no longer read like they used to”, or “adolescents write fatally” are phrases that slip quite easily between adults.

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The world is a complex place because those same adults who criticize those who will soon succeed us in the leadership of common sense, we are the same ones who sometimes show a terrible lack of reading comprehension on WhatsApp, we do not understand the meaning of a meme or we are outraged with a Tiktok that seems absurd to us. No one denies that there are many challenges to address in our education and that we should not romanticize our younger citizens either. But there are occasions where there are facts that show that we must review these stereotypes.

Wattpad is a social network that shows that there are young people and teenagers who do read and write. What happens is that we adults did not know it or we are not looking where to look.

Wattpad advertises on its website with pride that they have a total of 94 million monthly users, that the average time they stay on the platform is one hour and that 90% of said community belong to generation Z. They also declare “Inclusivity is not only a buzzword. 48% of the management team is made up of racialized people and 50% are hired women. Diversity of people creates diversity of stories ”.

In addition, after several rounds of investment, the company that owns the social network has created its own publishing house to publish books born on the platform o a merger agreement with Webtoon, another well-known platform dedicated to the development of graphic stories popular with younger people. BTS, the well-known K-Pop group just announced an agreement with the platform in which they will narrate exclusive stories. And there are also several precedents for stories born on Wattpad that ended up becoming a Netflix series. After The Kissing Booth and After, this week Netflix Spain announced the adaptation of “Through my window”, a novel written by writer Ariana Godoy, which got 177 million readings on the platform.

The truth is that this level of infiltration is not achieved overnight. Wattpad isn’t exactly new as a platform. It was born in 2006 and throughout all its years it has received the attention of consolidated people of Literature. In fact, in 2012 the science fiction writer Margaret Atwood signed an opinion column in The Guardian titled “Why Wattpad Works” and where it declared:

“I got in trouble a while ago for saying that I thought the Internet led to more literacy (people were scolding me for the shocking grammar that can be found online), but I was talking about the basics: You just can’t use the web at all. unless you can read. Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will soon be no older readers. Literacy will be dead and democracy, which many believe goes hand in hand with it, will also be dead ”.

Christian Olivé, Professor of Language and Literature, author of “A rebellious upbringing”And disseminator of content and strategies related to educational innovation, he shared in a thread in which many adults discover what many adolescents and young people have known for a long time: that there is a social network where they read and write stories that they are passionate about. In many cases it is fan-fics (fictions written from the best known narrative universes such as Harry Potter or Twilight, for example).

Olivé begins by dismantling the thesis of the stereotype that gives rise to this chronicle: “According to studies, adolescents read more than adults (…) The reading habit is much more established than we think of adolescents. And therefore this prejudice is very common because as adults we tend to despise or minimize what young people do ”.

Olivé believes that this prejudice goes beyond reading and writing: “With the slang Juvenile, with the words that young people use, the same thing happens. We tend to judge them negatively, forgetting that when we were young we also used our own language that identified us and reminded us that we belonged to a group (…) and social networks have broken down geographic borders. And a teenager from Barcelona may be using a very typical expression from Puerto Rico, because the person he sees on Twitch or YouTube is from there (…) That the language evolves seems like a good sign to me, ”says Olivé.

“From my perspective as a teacher I take it into account to show them that the learning of my Language and Literature subject is also present in the social networks they consume. To make a YouTube video you also need linguistic strategies (…) Or analyzing how we write on WhatsApp to see what image we project is also important so that they understand that what we learn in the classroom has an application in reality ”, he concludes Olivé, making it clear how important it is for him to connect the classroom with what happens outside of it.

That’s exactly what’s on Wattpad. A space full of stories of all kinds that combat the stereotype that adolescents and young people do not read or write. What will the stories that capture our attention look like in the years to come? Perhaps they are already published in a hidden corner of the Internet.