Asya Volodina: ‘The isolation and digital world turn out to be closer for Zoomers than connection with real people’

Writer Asya Volodina is a guest of a new edition of Bookshelf

Asya Volodina: ‘The isolation and digital world turn out to be closer for Zoomers than connection with real people’
Photo: Динар Фатыхов

Nowadays Asya Volodina’s three books have been published: The Main Character, Part of the Painting and True Cicadas. The writer herself united them into an educational trilogy. Every work has scary and sometimes wild stories about teenagers. Asya Volodina talks about their life of Zoomers through thrillers and psychological dramas. In a new edition of Bookshelf, Realnoe Vremya’s book reviewer Yekaterina Petrova talked with the writer not only about the books on teenagers but also teenagers themselves.

To explain what an MP3 player is

The Main Character novel describes a story of a student to committed a suicide. People from his circle provide their own version of the events, simultaneously opening own stories to the reader. In Part of the Painting, the main character is a female teacher who is surrounded by many very different teenagers. True Cicadas tells the reader a story about one class that ended with shooting. While Asya Volodina herself used to teach at university and observed the behaviour of modern teenagers for quite long.

“Zoomers are very different from the previous generation. It feels like the border was crossed in 2000. When I used to teach folks who were five years younger than me, the age difference was not so dramatic because we have a common context. When the difference is greater, some 10 years, something needs to be explained. For instance, what an MP3 player is and how a ticket is punched,” said Asya Volodina.

The writer often watched Class film from Estonia with her students, the film slightly refers to the book and True Cicadas series. The film was usually discussed after watching. Asya said that students who were five years younger made the same conclusions. While those 10 years younger asked questions the writer had never thought about. For instance, why didn’t the children film everything and didn’t show their parents what was happening at school?

“The fact that you can record something and you will have objective evidence you can provide is what makes us different. Also, this recording can be used for manipulation and force something do something. I precisely raise this topic in Part of the Painting. Zoomers came to the world where everybody does this. It is an organic part of their existence,” the writer explained.

Bullying became easier thanks to social media

If the generation born in the late 1980s and 1990s was created during the era of bandits and terrorist attacks. While in the world of Zoomers, social media and a digital image that can be manipulated reign. Modern teenagers can set a distance between real themselves and imagined themselves shown to the world because the world suddenly expanded.

“It is children who learn how to interact with a bigger number of people than they see in reality at an early age. It seems to me that it is a story about migration to another world, and because of this there is some gap that can turn out tragic between the real person and the image transmitted to the world,” added Volodina.

In True Cicadas, what the writer wanted to show is how strongly teenagers are attached to their virtual masks. Moreover, these masks are as old as this world: a rebel, a hero, the beauty of the class. But these labels are becoming clearer when they are underpinned not only in personal communication but also on social media. As a result, bullying became easier.

“We all rather chat than talk in person”

But if we leave school behind, the generation of Zoomers is much bigger than millennials and all previous generations, appreciates their own boundaries and cares about their health, including mental health. According to Asya Volodina, they even manipulate it. And of course, the smartphone became an indispensable part of their lives.

“When you get a big amount of information in your phone, there aren’t many things in real life that can be more interesting than the content in the smartphone. Even communication migrated there. By the way, author of the latest Total Dictation Anna Matveyeva had an idea that nowadays we are in the era of writing genre. We are rather chat than talk in person. This isolation and digital world turn out closer for Zoomers than the connection with real people because they have to talk, look into the eyes of real people, interpret, agree, which is too hard. While in a chat a person can simply be banned and imagine that all problems are solved. It is a dangerous story about the change of relations and communications, which seems to become easier. But this simplification, as a result, lead to some complication in reality,” concluded Asya Volodina.

Yekaterina Petrova is a book reviewer of Realnoe Vremya online newspaper, author of Poppy Seed Muffins Telegram channel and founder of the first online book club with Makulatora subscription.

Yekaterina Petrova

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