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Social Media and the Art of Storytelling, Reader Responses

20 Apr

This is the customary follow-up piece written by someone who didn’t consider all of the lovely ideas that the commenters brought to the table while she was writing her original article.  Unfortunately, a lot of times writers of these pieces seem to miss the bigger issues that the commenters brought up and instead focus on a few straw men that they can tear down to bolster their argument.  Of course, I wasn’t really making an argument, so hopefully I won’t fall into this trap.  (But, let me know if I do!)

Thanks to being featured on Freshly Pressed, Social Media and the Art of Storytelling has become my most viewed post.  After reading the comments (and responding to as many of them as I could), I realize that I left some lose ends in that post.

One thing that was pointed out time and again was that online communication cannot fully replace face to face interactions.  I think broadsideblog said it best:

There is something much more powerful about telling one another our stories face to face, not pixel by pixel. We need to know the effect on one another of our stories, whether tears or laughter, sighs or gasps…. I want to hear the voice, see their eyes, and when I am story-telling I need to see and hear what’s compelling — and what’s not.

Of course, that’s totally correct and applies not only to storytelling, but to communication in general.  You don’t comfort a grieving friend through chat and you don’t celebrate your child’s 5th birthday with an e-card.  It’s just not the same.  Some things do require physical presence, eye contact, and touch.

But, the medium through which we communicate is changing and we’re losing these elements in many of our day-to-day interactions.  (Earlier this year, I did a Facebook poll of my siblings and cousins to see how they wanted to celebrate Christmas…)  That’s happening and we can’t stop it.  So, really, the question is, how can we make sure that changes to the medium don’t affect changes to the message?  (Yes, yes, I know – “The medium is the message.”)  As commenter Jaime Greening said:

the medium of the story matters, but it neither stops nor starts the story. the story originates in the storyteller and germinates until it finds an audience. human beings must tell stories, and we will use what is available–twitter, fb, blog or cave walls.

Perfectly said.  Now can someone please make an evolutionary chart that shows the progression of storytelling mediums from cave paintings to twitter?  Information is Beautiful, maybe?

Another thing that came up a lot was people wondering how all of these stories that we’re creating and posting online could be preserved.  Listener commented:

And to think, for millenia the vast majority of people existed with no record of their existence other than their DNA. I suppose we are lucky.?! This should be motivation to make use of the new-found ease with with we can create.

At what point will historians, museums, or historical societies start to preserve and catalogue the virtual world? It seems quite a daunting task to take a snapshot of the entire web. Since things online are always changing, you’d need to somehow capture everything at once if you wanted a representative view of the web of 2011, for example.

I do have real answers to this one, not just the meandering thoughts that I’ve had to the previous two.  (But, don’t worry, I have meandering thoughts on this, too.)  We as bloggers aren’t alone in recognizing the need to capture our stories, our culture, and our communications and to save them for the future.  The Library of Congress does, too.  Last year, they began archiving tweets.  They’ll be searchable for scholars in the future.  To learn more about the archive, read How Tweet It Is!: Library Acquires  Entire Twitter Archive.  Imagine if historians had similar data from different periods.  What if a civil war scholar could get data about opinion and chatter on any given day in the lead up to the war.  What if a WWII scholar could look into the social networks of Germans leading up to the war and see how densely Jews were tied into larger social networks and at what point those ties broke?  (Have I mentioned that I’m a history nerd?)  Also, the Internet Archive, is working to catalog the Internet and its growth and changes for future scholars.  (Who knows, your blog may appear in a book 100 years from now!)  Their project, the Wayback Machine, allows you to see to internet site at different points in the past and view their development over time.  So cool!

I did have one commenter, Alecia, who kind of stumped me.  (Unfortunately Alecia didn’t link to her blog, so no pingbacks for her.) She asked:

Why is storytelling so important in relation to digital social media?

When I first heard about the importance of storytelling in today’s tech world, I was a little confused. Storytelling doesn’t seem that important to me. But Guy Kawasaki and other ‘connected’ people I’ve read about stress storytelling’s importance.

Why do you think digital storytelling is important?

I think I may have failed a bit on my response:

Hmmm. For me, I guess I’ve never questioned that story telling is important. I think of it as a basic way that we interact with and connect with each other. It bonds people together and forges shared experiences.

I’ve always been really interested in the study of what myths and creation stories say about a culture. I think that you can tell a lot about a people and what they value from the stories that they tell. Are you familiar with the Horatio Alger stories? Stories are often shorthand for our hopes as fears.

My real interest in writing this is that we don’t lose storytelling’s place in our culture as we become a more physically disconnected society.

So, readers, commenters, I put it to you.  Why is storytelling important?  Can you help me articulate it any better?


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 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

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