Is Storytelling Dead?
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I am despondent, doleful, woebegone, heartbroken even. I consider myself a teller of tales, a dream or fantasy anecdotalist, an artist of fiction. I thoroughly revel in relaxing in my recliner and allowing my thoughts to wander and take on a life of their own. Writing and telling a story fulfills an emptiness inside me in a way that nothing else can suffuse. I undoubtedly enjoy sharing my stories and adventures with the world…yet…I sometimes wonder if many people actually read my stories in their entirety any more.
I’ve been paying attention to many current write-ups about how today’s society cannot afford the luxury of time, and how the attention span of today’s generation is 60% shorter than that of older generations. Fictional purists believe that storytelling is dead, but I still refuse to swallow this.
Short, snappy, and ephemeral—such are the traits of today’s most shared stories. The long form novella and the two-hour feature film have made way for the 140-character tweet and the 6.5-second Vine.
It seems that I receive an abundance of likes on my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter posts with a link to my most recent written work, yet the reports online tell a different story. The numbers do not lie. The percentage of likes I receive on social media greatly outweigh the actual number of visits to my site. I am thrown aback as to why people actually like a social media post about a story I wrote, yet they don’t actually read the story. This astounds me.
I put my notions to a test and posted the following excerpt on social media:
Since I am a writer, the written word is very important to me. I am testing something to see if my friends actually read posts without photos. If you are still reading this, please reply with the title of your favorite blog post of mine on The Outdoor Soul or feedback about your overall thoughts about my blog. I’m pretty interested in finding out how many people are just quick image viewers or actually read the thoughts, ideas, and stories of their friends. Also, please reply with the word “cheers” at the end. Thanks.
The results have dumbfounded me. On Facebook, I received one comment, stating “I don’t read blogs. Cheers.” I received two other comments stating “I will read it if it’s not a novel,” and “I’ll admit, I’m not a huge reader and am a very visual person, cheers!” On Instagram, I was required to attach a photo, since Instagram is based around images. I received a ton of likes, yet, I received no replies or comments, which tells me no one actually read the post I wrote.
This tells me a few things. First, the majority of today’s society is completely superficial and seek out shortcuts to stay “in the crowd” and “social” by liking and sharing images and short bursts of ideas. Second, only a small amount of people are actually interested in reading or listening to what someone has to say. Third, we are in a day and age where meaningful conversation is sparse.
Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook; the tools of socializing. These vehicles were created to provide opportunities where people can connect easily with others, share ideas, thoughts, stories, and happenings. Yet, I believe they have actually done the opposite. They have actually created a vehicle that removes true connectivity with the world around us. People just see bright, shiny things and say “ooh, ahh” and “like” photos and short bursts of thought, say “I’m being social in my community”, and briskly move on to the next bright, shiny object. I believe that most people don’t really care to read full stories and articles, and have no real, meaningful thoughts of their own. “Being social” has changed from thoughtful communication and conversing to mindless sharing and liking of photos and pictures.
This brings me to a whirling nightmare that we may be on the path to creating (or should I say destroying) the world as we know it, and becoming a society more and more like the movie Idiocracy. We must gain the attention of and keep the attention of others with one bright, shiny thing after another. We must constantly dangle the carrot in front of the face of others or we become irrelevant and quickly forgotten. Now, don’t take this the wrong way. I am not at all saying we are becoming more dumb or less smart. The only thing I am taking from the movie is the veer toward individual living, less meaningful relationships, and the requirement of constant exposure to exciting and blaring images, sounds, and very short bursts of information compared to gaining a true understanding of a topic through sitting down and reading a book, for instance. That takes too much time and energy. Right? How can someone develop a meaningful relationship without in-depth conversation and discussion? This is where I am getting at when I use the word “superficial” to describe today’s society.
I refuse to fall into the trap of writing short articles and stories. I don’t want to be part of creating a society void of meaning and real communication. I may not get the high number of views that other blogs do, but at least I can say that I put some real thought and heart into my writing. I put true emotion and feeling into it. It’s not just a pretty picture and a thoughtless blurb of information.
Think about this for a moment; when was the last time you sat down and really read a full story or book? Is there something about the actual feel of a book in your hands that allows you to set aside the time to read it for hours on end? Or do you just read a chapter at a time, set it down for a few days and come back to the next chapter later, taking an entire year to finish the full book? Is it something about the digital format that promotes multi-tasking and the constant need to switch to another article or story quickly? Can one not get comfortable reading one longer story in the digital format? Is there a real correlation between digital words and short attention spans?
Thinking about all of these things has provoked a deeper introspection into my own behaviors. I do have to say that I find much more comfort in holding a real book in my hands compared to reading any digital format novel. It’s something about the actual feel of the turning of page after page after page that is satisfying to me. Clicking the mouse or touching an arrow on the screen is not nearly as satisfying to me. I can sit and read a book or magazine for hours without getting up from my seat. When I do finally peel myself from the leather couch, you can see the indentation my figure has created.
On the other hand, when I use my laptop, tablet, or phone to read a digital magazine or e-book, I find myself incessantly getting up from my seat, stretching my legs, thinking of other tasks that must be completed, getting a snack or something to wet my palate, shifting my position to get more comfortable. I guess the format does have something to do with this, possibly.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this as well. As a writer, feedback from my readers is very important to me. Of course, I do have my own style and may be stubborn in my ways, but without feedback, one has only one way to go, one path to take, and no direction but his own. Leave your thoughts on this; on your views of today’s society and the shift to short spurts of information. Is storytelling really dead? I refuse to believe it.