“Oh my God I need to tweet that!” I’ve said and overheard many times over the past couple of years. The urge to share our stories and experiences – what we are eating, what we are doing, what we are thinking and who we are with – overruns Twitter timelines and Facebook news feeds.
People have, in fact, been telling stories for as long as humanity has existed. Storytelling is defined as the conveying of events in words, images and sounds, and has been used by every culture as a means of education. It has in fact been proven to be highly beneficial in terms of a child’s development, pivotal in developing language and literary skills as well as verbal proficiency and listening. It is also used as a means of cultural preservation and a way to instill moral values and pass down the beliefs of previous generations.
“If you don’t know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don’t know the stories you may be lost in life.” As such, from as far back as the Aborigines, stories have been used to help convey a variety of ideas and beliefs. But, just like everything else, the way in which stories are told – and the reason, and patience for listening to and absorbing them, has changed dramatically over the years.
As such we are forever encouraged to share; “what’s on your mind?” asks facebook, “share your thoughts,” it urges. Making everyone a storyteller. This is only made more so by the invention of blogs. There are an estimated 450 million ‘active’ English language blogs. This equates to around one out of every six people in the world with a personal blog. Each with their own stories to tell, and only a ‘publish’ button in between them and sharing these with the world.
As the scope of the stories have increased – with the invention of the print press, the internet and the widespread methods of communication, which mean anyone can share anything with whoever is willing to listen – so have the methods of telling them. Carvings on caves have culminated into an abundance of methods of expressing oneself – music, dance, paintings, books, and films – each with the capacity to educate and share information with whoever is willing to absorb it.
It can be argued that in a world where we are constantly laden down with information, however, much of it tends to go unabsorbed. The sheer amount of books, movies, music and stimuli that flash and beckon us at each second of the day and turn of the head does nothing but ensure that the majority of it will go unnoticed.
Social media sites the likes of Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest have caught onto this lack of attention span, allowing its users to tell stories in 140 characters, a photo, or a board of pinned images and words. All allowing for quick absorption.
But regardless of the methods used to tell a story, the motivation behind it is the same time and time again. As Aldous Huxley wrote: “We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves.” In this, story telling helps combat that feeling of aloneness – letting us know that we are not in fact alone in our experiences and thoughts, but that they are universal.
This is exemplified in the popularity of the website Postsecret (and the many books that followed on from it) which consists of secrets which readers from around the world submit anonymously. “We believe that our secrets are walls, when actually they are bridges,” a reader recently tweeted to the creator of the site. The same can be said of stories.
After all, all these methods of story telling are just a way of making us feel important, of coming to terms with ourselves, of connecting with others. All art forms are simply ways of telling our tales, or those of others that we deem important enough to share.
It is easy to feel small in a world that consists of so many billions of people. Story telling is a way to ensure that something of you gets passed on. That the things you have learnt and often struggled to come to grips with do not die with you, but rather that others can benefit from them too.
As such, story telling has existed forever. Social media the likes of Twitter and Facebook have just facilitated it, made it more instant and given people a bigger audience.
“The aim is not to live forever, but to create something that will,” – and this is something that story telling has allowed people to do since the beginning and will continue to – until the very last of the happy endings.