Don't Just Be a Scroller
Social media is changing the fabric of human culture. Forums like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and What’s App enhance how we communicate. Many of these advancements happening in very recent history; Facebook was launched in 2004, Linked In 2002, and Twitter in 2006. As people around the world login and wonder, who can I connect with today? We are discovering the thread that ties us all together, is story telling.
Language barriers are knocked down with the help of translating programs. Images connect people through a shared experience. Emojis prompt us to feel similar emotions. Each of the pieces work together to tell a story.
Researchers have been tracking the data (also called Page Insights) of various social media apps, and a trend line emerged. The four leading platforms, Facebook, Snapchat, What’s App, and Instagram, continue to display an astounding exponential increase in the use of the Your Story function each quarter. Other social media apps are working on integrating similar features into their programs as a result of these findings. More than the traditional news feed and post, people are drawn to the 15 second stories.
But is it possible for a fifteen second video or filtered snapshot to be a story? How many details can we cut out before all that is left is a statement, a moment in time, a metaphor, or an innuendo? Miriam Webster defines story as an account of incidents or events. While Oxford Dictionary states a story is an account of events told for entertainment. Bottom line, if the storyteller is skilled, then fifteen seconds is enough time.
The data reveals most people are drawn to posters who upload short videos, creative images, and genuine posts about life. Many users prefer the humanized story to political statements, quotations from famous influencers, and news articles. Social media is trending this way because stories have been in the fabric of human history before language emerged. We need to pause and ask about the effect. How will shortened social media clips change the way we tell stories? Will flash fiction, vines, memes, 280 character tweets, and Stories change how we interact with a storyteller? Is our capacity to experience emotion being limited or enhanced by quicker telling times?
I am excited for the future of social media, that is more humanized and connected to what makes human culture unique. I wonder as a writer, who is acutely aware of her word count, if people will be able to read long works or sit through multi acts plays or walk through dozens of galleries in the future? I hope our ability to absorb so much content every day on our screens is helping us grow, rather than hindering us.
Social media was imagined as a tool for all humans to intermingle. So keep interacting, but do not absorb a story and move on. Use the material on social media to get involved with others. Start with comments. If you have a similar experience to the story posted, share in the comments. If the story moved or interested you then try sharing it with someone. Send it along to someone else’s page or snag the attention of a person nearby and show them. Engage in that discussion just for a moment.
Advanced level interaction can look like bringing that meaningful social media post with you. Use a funny 15 second video as an icebreaker for your next team meeting at work. Open a story of your favorite Instagram account during a first date to create a shared experience. If you find a great a meme or image, print it on physical paper and put it on your grandparent’s fridge. My Nana always cuts out the Funnies to send me in the mail. I keep the tradition alive but with a fresh Millennial twist.
Story telling will never fade away, but the dynamics are changing. We have a responsibility to grasp onto the stories scrolling across our screens and live them out. Your first challenge is to comment what you think below. Go ahead and paste a screen shot of a post into the comments. Do you click on Stories when you are on social media, why or why not? They say every time a story is retold it just gets better. We can be more than just scrollers, if we take the time to interact with the great stories around us.