Storytime Over Digital Media

Stories are powerful. They help connect us as people and give us the sense that we know someone that much better because we know a vulnerable and quasi-private part of who they are. As our media methods have changed, so have the ways we tell stories and digital media is a prime example of that.

We have the ability to share our stories in new ways. Blogs, vlogs, tweets, hashtags, Vines, mp3 songs, Snapchats, and Instagrams. Online shared prose and poetry, brief sentences in 140 characters or less, songs, videos, pictures, and digital art. Stories are no longer just written and shared on paper or told orally. And because of these new mediums, there are even more stories being shared.

With there being more stories being shared in new digital ways, it also means that we have the ability to be connected to far more stories than ever before. Whether anonymous stories, like those shared on PostSecret or MyLifeIsAverage, or the smattering of Facebook statuses added by those people you haven’t talked to since High School, we have the ability to listen to the life experiences of more people today than ever before. Our communities expand past our street or even state and span the entire world. We can hear about life in different countries, learn twenty different ways to make cupcakes, and that’s not even beginning to touch on the created stories we hear through sitcoms, television dramas, podcasts, and movies. Our ability to access perspectives and opinions different than ours is unprecedented.

And yet, with a simple click of the mouse to close out a window or continue on to the next YouTube video, we have the ability to digitally walk away from stories that make us uncomfortable or that we don’t agree with. Sure this is possible when we are telling and listening to stories in person, but there are certain cultural conventions that make many of us think twice before standing up to walk out of a crowded lecture because we disagree with a point the speaker said. We don’t want to appear to be rude in person, but there is an ability to ignore when there is a screen-barrier between ourselves and the voice we’d rather not hear. It’s why we can watch the news channel of our choice and only subscribe to blogs that support the political and social opinions we already hold.

At the same time, there is a difference in storytelling when someone is physically vs. digitally present. It’s not a good vs. bad thing, it’s just a thing. I’ve noticed that sometimes the digital media can bring a story to life in moving ways that probably wouldn’t happen in person. And other times when the digital medium just doesn’t convey the same emotion. It’s less about one being better or worse than the other, and more about having the right medium to share your story.

So what are some stories that have been enhanced and made more meaningful to you based on the digital media they chose to use?

Some of my favorites have been:

“A Very Potter Musical” by StarKid
This is a digital media version of in-person storytelling through musical theater, but I think the digital life of this musical has a life of its own.

“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”
This is a modern adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, set up like a vlog series by the characters. It was developed by Hank Green and Bernie Su, so you know it’s probably pretty good.