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.
Humans are NOT open vessels waiting to read, listen, or watch ANY story that comes along.
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:
- How can this story become someone else’s story?
- Why does this story need to be shared?
- 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.
We need more brave storytellers.
Do you think humans are open vessels waiting to take in more stories?