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Social Media and the Art of Storytelling

6 Apr

A few days ago, Chris Sullivan of wrote an article called “The art of storytelling in a world of technology”.  He asked if you can tell a story over Twitter and wondered if the limitations of the medium limited the message.  He quoted professional storyteller Anne Rutherford as saying “Whatever their age, whatever their circumstance, if it’s a good story and it’s well told we completely have the ability to respond to that. However, what I think we’re losing is the opportunity to be in those situations.”  Ms. Rutherford believes the communications over digital technology, particularly via social media, are causing us to cut back on our in person interactions, and thus on our chances to tell and listen to stories.

In response to Mr. Sullivan’s article, Amanda Cosco of the Social Times said:

“It is my argument that social media makes story-telling even more possible today than in earlier years. While I’d agree with Sullivan that we’re not sharing stories in the same manner as we used to, I’d suggest that Story itself is an evolving beast, something that grows and mutates with time. Throughout history, storytelling forms have changed with technology— from oral traditions, to the printed word, to most recently digital media—but the elements of narrative can be detected throughout, as Story manages to creep its way into every linguistic or visual expression.”

And, I agree.  We use social media to connect and to share about our lives.  Really, our posts, tweets, and status updates come together to tell our stories.  A new “friend” is a new character entering the story.  Every check-in on FourSquare brings a new scene.  So, while the medium may be changing, the stories are still being told, now more than ever.  After all, we’re all writing our autobiographies, whether we know it or not.

Admittedly, social media tends to focus more on non-fiction than fiction.  (Interesting, because if you asked teens or twenty-somethings what they prefer, I bet the vast majority of them would say fiction.)  But, there are whole realms of online social interactions that are devoted to fiction.  Although they’re not as big of names as Facebook, they’re still important.  LiveJournal has many story writing communities.  And, there’s always fanfic.  (Yes, I realize that is probably the lamest fanfic link, but I’m not sure who all is in the audience here and how many of them would think I were crazy if I posted some other ones…)  See the story of Cassandra Clare (fanfic author that got a book deal and made good) for an example of social media and online communities leading to authorship.

In response to Mr. Sullivan’s dare (“I challenge you to tell a great story on Twitter”), I submit that Charles Dickens released his stories in serial format.  I’m sure that they were much longer than 144 characters, but his medium was novel at the time, too.

So, keep updating, keep posting, and keep tweeting —  after all your writing you’re own story.  (And if you don’t write it, it probably won’t get told.)

Update: I’ve posted a follow-up piece, Social Media and the Art of Storytelling, Reader Responses.  I was so impressed with the thoughtful and articulate comments that I couldn’t just let them sit without a reply.  Read some selected comments and more on the topic here.

MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture.  Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes.  MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration.  My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on freshly pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog.  Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on?  Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at

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