May 10, 2013
Every day we are telling stories, many of which are about seemingly mundane events in our lives.
Why do we all find such interest in these boring posts, updates, pictures and videos - posted about what we are eating, where we are traveling to, what our pets look like or who we are hanging out with? Because at the core we are all linked by some of the same basic human desires. And experiencing "stories" is a core human desire, not only for entertainment, but touching upon our basic survival instincts. By experiencing other people's stories, we seek to have a wider perspective on life and how to traverse it.
While we might think we are simply browsing mindless pictures of food or vacation shots, we are in fact satisfying a basic human urge to learn through stories. Woven throughout these constant streams of content (social media) and even more intentional content (blog posts, professional photography, videos, movies, books, etc.), are common threads and core emotions. By understanding why we all need stories in our lives, and also understanding why stories make us human, we can hopefully become better at making and telling stories in our own lives.
Today, more than ever before in the history of modern civilization, individuals are empowered with the tools to be story tellers and the technology to see their stories spread far and wide in the blink of an eye.
The web and the technology that connects us all has turned our world into a world of stories. We experience them in short bursts of a Twitter update or an Instagram photo, we experience them on Vine or through blogs, and we come in contact with "content" created by other people for our consumption at an almost constant rate. When we aren't consuming, we are creating and publishing for others.
When, in your day to day life, are you free from the content of others?
When are you simply existing in the moment? Not publishing, not sharing, not using some aspect of the web or technology to consume or publish information? It's kind of amazing when you think about it, and then compare it to your daily life 20 years ago. If you're as old as I am or older, you will recall a very different daily experience. I'm not saying that this is a bad change. What I am saying is that we owe it to ourselves to try to become better at telling these stories and putting out this content if we want it to matter. And for those of us for whom this is a job (writers, content strategists, photographers, videographers, creative directors, art directors, web designers, etc.), learning to become better at these things should help us to be better at our jobs.
At the end of the day, everything is about the story.
Let's back up about 30,000 years so I can make a point.
We started out as an evolving creature using stories to not only help us survive, but to create the culture that would eventually define us from all other creatures sharing this big rock. Storytelling was the key to what made us "human". Through the telling of stories, we not only helped ourselves understand the world around us, but we left a record of our very existence. We used images to tell these stories, much earlier than we developed written language or even advanced verbal communication skills.
Somehow, communicating with images is almost instinctual for humans.
It is particularly fascinating that in certain caves where early paintings have been located, scientists have determined that several thousand years may have passed between the first set of drawings and another set; yet the visual language and imagery remained almost identical. This might lead one to conclude that communicating visually is a basic human instinct and not something that has to be learned or taught in order to hold value and contain consistent attributes. If you have never taken the time to really explore the cave paintings of Lascaux, I encourage you to visit this site and prepare to have your mind blown.
Remember when everyone was freaking out about Facebook buying Instagram for 1 Billion dollars?
Yes you remember. Well, while we can definitely agree that Instagram was grabbing the lion's share of tweeners and other juicy users at an blazingly fast rate, there was something else there in what Facebook was buying. Facebook - which I'm sure you can agree has become a shitstorm of political rants, spam, pictures of children with horrible deformities guilt-tripping you into hitting the "like" button and other useless and often incorrect information - is dying. It is dying because it has become overrun with all the crap that takes away from what we, as users, as humans, are looking for and looking to do.
We are looking for stories; and Instagram with its single image and short caption does a much better job at letting us experience stories than Facebook does with all its junk, clutter and regurgitated jokes or memes.
Facebook bought what it might see as a lifesaver, because even the people at Facebook understand that as humans, we will never stop needing to experience stories - and tell our own. And images, simple still images, are the most primitive and human way to do just that.
We can all agree that stories are a key component to our human-ness. Both the desire to tell them, and to experience them - through images, words, spoken word, art, dance, song, poetry, etc.
Which would lead us to think we would have gotten pretty good at story telling then, right? Well I've spent some time looking around at what the people around me are "creating" on all the networks we now have at our disposal for publishing stories at an amazingly fast pace, to an ever widening audience - and guess what - it stinks.
Generally, we suck at telling good stories.