The art of storytelling is something through which we live our lives. We are read to as children at bedtime, we relate tales and events to our friends, we create landmarks and families and connections through life, and when we leave our tales become memories.
Story telling is ingrained in human civilization; entire religions and global beliefs are based on stories that have been written, transcribed, translated and passed on. We know what has gone before because it has been told to us.
And what will we leave behind? What stories do we have to tell? In his article The art of storytelling, Chris Sullivan states that whilst modern technology has made the world a smaller place it is squashing our abilities of expression. He defies us to tell a great story in a 140 character Tweet and asks us ‘when was the last time you lost yourself in a text message?’ I understand his point – technology perhaps removes a certain engagement and exclusivity; how can we tell a story of ourselves when it will be transmitted around the world and open to be littered with comments from people we neither know or care about? But whilst some may argue something is lost, can something be made and formed from this new way of storytelling? Amanda Cosco of the Social Times responds to Sullivan, writing that ‘social media makes story-telling even more possible today than in earlier years…[the] story itself is an evolving beast, something that grows and mutates with time’. Technology has always changed the way we tell stories – from early cave paintings, to oral traditions, to ink, printing and the digital age – we have always found a way to tell the world who we are. The elements remain the same: narrative, belief, purpose, expression. For whatever reason, we need to tell our story.
I look at the communication of my day so far – I sent some text messages, wrote some cards, had a call from Ruth, sent some emails, went on Facebook, wrote this sitting on my roof in the sun. All these trails and strands of my life coming together to make up my story – links across the city, across the country. I imagine Fabs attending her social media course in Inverness, scraps of lives from the north of Scotland reaching around the world.
Maggie Cakes writes in her blog that all these millions of ‘posts, tweet and status updates come together to tell our stories’ – she says how each friend is a new character, every “check-in” to a place is a new scene in the chronicle. She writes ‘while the medium may be changing, the stories are still being told, now more than ever’ and – surely – that can only be a good thing? I write elsewhere on here that we are lucky to have a voice and I truly believe it. There are some that are muted by government, or culture or religion. Some who live in the fear of writing and speaking their heart. Crowd Voice provides a resource to express protests against persecution, censorship and repression from around the world. It relies on the social medium of tweets, blogs and videos phones to form a network of resistance. Surely, used in this way they are even more valuable, vital and precious.
I feel that I could paint a picture of my life with the postcards, text messages, letters and emails I have saved over the years. Connections and communications that have made me smile. The issue of storytelling seems to be recurring: as Anne Rutherford, a storyteller from Portland – home of my friend Mali – says, ‘we are programmed as human beings to hear and understand and respond to stories. It’s just how we’re hardwired’. As I go onto WordPress this Thursday morning, there are 395, 389 bloggers telling their stories in 508,858 new posts, 430, 197 comments and – my favourite – 113, 922, 764 words. Whilst no number of tweets or emails will ever replace the importance of being with a friend – faces, emotion, laughter, touch – they do seem to contribute to and participate within the discourse. What we say is important. So, say it.