Introducing the newest ideas in storytelling

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Have you ever noticed how often dig­i­tal plat­forms encour­age you to share your sto­ry? You’ll find it every­where. But are peo­ple real­ly emp­ty ves­sels wait­ing to be poured a serv­ing sto­ries?

Like you, I spend a lot of time using the inter­net to find things that inter­est me. I shop online—maybe too much—and I’m inter­est­ed in what oth­er peo­ple have to say about art, music, writ­ing, and tech.

On the one hand, I enjoy read­ing, watch­ing, and lis­ten­ing to sto­ries when they relate to some­thing I’m inter­est­ed in. But sort­ing through the mess of obnox­ious, mean­ing­less sto­ries, adver­tise­ments, and NOISE is a big turn off!

Obnoxious stories are ANNOYING!

Have you ever hit the HIDE but­ton on Face­book or UNFOLLOWED some­one because of a “sto­ry” they shared? I have.

Your neigh­bor may not have con­sid­ered their vaca­tion pho­tos as a “sto­ry,” but it is. It’s a “beat” in the nar­ra­tive of their life. And even though they fol­lowed the internet’s instruc­tions and “told their sto­ry,” you don’t care!! You don’t want to hear their sto­ry. You didn’t ask for it—but got it any­way.

So WHY is there so much story promotion?

Seri­ous­ly! If we don’t want to hear cer­tain sto­ries and go to lengths to “ban” people’s sto­ries from ever enter­ing our feeds again—why do so many plat­forms encour­age sto­ry shar­ing?

Let me intro­duce 2 per­spec­tives for you to con­sid­er.

#1: We’re empty vessels!

Per­spec­tive #1 is that humans are “emp­ty ves­sels” wait­ing to be filled with sto­ries. A ves­sel is a con­tain­er to be filled with liq­uid or some­thing. It exists to be USED; to serve the pur­pose of being filled. (Think about how dif­fi­cult life would be if we didn’t have con­tain­ers to hold liq­uid!) The Bible even talks about ves­sels a lot, and uses them as a metaphor for how a per­son can be use­ful for good works:

“There­fore, if any­one cleans­es him­self from what is dis­hon­or­able, he will be a ves­sel for hon­or­able use, set apart as holy, use­ful to the mas­ter of the house, ready for every good work.” 2 Tim­o­thy 2:21

In the same way that a ves­sel exists to be filled—and to be useful—the “share your sto­ry” move­ment implies that peo­ple are like emp­ty con­tain­ers wait­ing to be filled up with sto­ries. The impli­ca­tion is that we NEED more sto­ries and more peo­ple to share them. If they don’t, we will be left sto­ry­less.

Do you think that’s true? Are you wait­ing to hear ANY and ALL kinds of sto­ry?

If you’re like me, you prob­a­bly will answer NO. No, I do not want to hear any kind of sto­ry that comes along. So…then…why do we keep scrolling on Face­book or Insta­gram? Why do we con­tin­ue to watch movies or shows? Why do we talk to peo­ple and ask ques­tions?

While I don’t want to lis­ten to every sto­ry that comes my way, there is a real­i­ty that humans can “nev­er get enough” sto­ry. We crave it. It’s a deep part of the human expe­ri­ence. We desire to know what hap­pens next. But only some­times! Some­times we do, some­times we don’t. This is why there’s Per­spec­tive #2:

#2: We are NOT open vessels. (I don’t care about your story.)

This con­cept is some­thing no one talks about. What hap­pens when no one cares? What hap­pens if peo­ple don’t care what you have to say?

Plat­forms encour­age users to share their sto­ries, but fail to rec­og­nize that humans are NOT always open ves­sels wait­ing to read, lis­ten, or watch a sto­ry that comes along. Hon­est­ly, I have enough sto­ries to han­dle right now and have a hard time decid­ing what to pri­or­i­tize. Your sto­ry is not that impor­tant. What you ate for break­fast doesn’t mat­ter. We real­ly don’t want to hear your sto­ry.

[share­able cite=“Josh Mitchell”] Humans are NOT open ves­sels wait­ing to read, lis­ten, or watch ANY sto­ry that comes along.[/shareable]

No one is wait­ing to hear your sto­ry. No need to film a video or take a cool pho­to. Keep it to your­self and spare the world of your sto­ry! Please!

We DO want more stories, right?

The prob­lem with “The­o­ry #2” is that it doesn’t address the human desire to WANT sto­ries. We DO want more sto­ries — but we also DON’T want cer­tain sto­ries.

Right now, I AM an emp­ty ves­sel for THESE sto­ries:

  • How my wife’s day was
  • Bet­ter Call Saul, Sea­son 3
  • Ser­i­al Pod­cast, Sea­son 3
  • Any­thing new or note­wor­thy with Macs
  • Any­thing Pixar or Dis­ney releas­es

Any­thing else, right now, is noise. I don’t want to hear it. This may change tomor­row.

What’s the point?

The point of this arti­cle is to sub­mit these two “per­spec­tives” to the dig­i­tal sto­ry­telling move­ment. I know there are more dimen­sions to each of these perspectives—but I haven’t been able to find enough mate­r­i­al that address­es each in depth. If you have some­thing you have found that’s inter­est­ing please let me know in the com­ments.

I have many books on lit­er­ary the­o­ry, cog­ni­tive nar­ra­tive stud­ies, screen­writ­ing, cre­ative writ­ing, and what makes a “good sto­ry.” But there is not much out there that dis­cuss­es our will­ing­ness and resis­tance to receive—then engage—with inter­per­son­al sto­ries, espe­cial­ly those shared online.

Getting practical: Should I share my story?

If peo­ple didn’t share their sto­ries, the world would be a bor­ing place. So, yes, I think you should share your sto­ry. But first, think:

  1. How can this sto­ry become some­one else’s sto­ry?
  2. Why does this sto­ry need to be shared?
  3. What is the most engag­ing way to share this sto­ry?

We need brave, detailed, fun, seri­ous, and spe­cif­ic sto­ry­tellers to con­tin­ue shar­ing sto­ries. We also need new, ener­gized, and dif­fer­ent sto­ry­tellers to step up and try new things; to show us how they see the world and think of things.

[share­able cite=“Josh Mitchell”] We need more brave storytellers.[/shareable]

[reminder]Do you think humans are open ves­sels wait­ing to take in more stories?[/reminder]

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