I love stories. Nearly every one of us does. We’re human. Stories, whether spoken or digital, are so much more interesting than facts and figures.
Stories have been around for centuries. It could be an amazing story told in the colorful pages of National Geographic magazine, rich with breathtaking scenery. Or a hushed story told to a group of friends in a dark bar, next do a blazing fire on a cold winter’s night, with the wind howling just outside.
Now with YouTube, and Instagram and Facebook stories in particular, we now have virtually unlimited access to people and their stories.
Storytelling however, is largely one-way, whether it’s a person or a video doing the telling. Hence the ‘tell’ element of story-tell-ing.
Stories engage, but they don’t often create engagement.
People love hearing stories. They connect with characters. They get drawn into the storyline.
However, people often don’t take action from the stories. They watch the video, or read the post, but then largely keep it to themselves. And they don’t create engagement as a result. (Tapping ‘share’ on social media doesn’t equate to engagement.)
To engage = Draw people in, while generating emotion and response
Engagement = People interacting with one another; to learn, grow, and challenge each other
This engagement is an important core element of human nature — required for growth, development, and survival.
And this is now even more important in the age of artificial intelligence. AI will have a significant impact on our lives and our future. (That is clear. What’s not yet clear is how significant it will be, and in all the specific ways.)
So, we’re in a bit of an engagement crisis. We have so many rich but one-sided stories, but too little human engagement and interaction.
This somewhat comical and sad thing happens to me most days in my condo building:
• I’m in an elevator going down to the ground
• It stops on another floor, and the door opens
• A person walks in while scrolling through social media on their phone
• We arrive at the ground level, and that person exits the elevator and walks to the building entrance, still scrolling
Now I definitely don’t expect everyone in an elevator to gleefully start up conversations with their fellow riders every time. But I have had some great conversations with people in elevators. And it was never with anyone that so engrossed with their phone that they didn’t even look up.
The very serious, but seemingly under-recognized risk
Social media and technology allows us to share stories to our friends and to the world. We can easily capture and share every detail of our daily lives in high-definition, and publish it in seconds.
But there’s a catch.
People are addicted to social media. Even very young kids are pacified with colorful and engaging screens. Teenagers are missing key opportunities to develop social skills. Grandparents, who often initially dismiss technology, have fallen into the addiction trap as well.
The double whammy
1. The addicting nature of devices and social media will only get worse. (Many mobile applications are designed to be addictive.)
2. The continued evolution and reach of AI. (Machines will continue to get smarter, faster, and more powerful.)
On the surface, it actually seems relatively simple to save the human race: Engage and interact more with our fellow humans — to up-skill, to co-create solutions, and to evolve positively.
But that can be a tough sell to a child: “Son, would you like to go outside and play with the neighbors, get some exercise, and learn some great life skills? Or would you like to stay inside on the sofa, and be dazzled by these addicting apps on this tablet?”
And at times, it’s equally tough with us mature adults, many of whom are actually addicted to their devices.
A solution: Create stories together
Together, face-to-face with others, create two types of stories:
1. Existing stories
Recall and record existing stories from your collective pasts. This is great to do with old friends and family. Whether it’s your experiences with your childhood friends, memories from your college days, or a crazy Griswold-style family vacation, you can connect with others to document these stories.
Relive past experiences together, and capture them. Together is better when it’s face-to-face, but you can get creative too with technology!
As an example, I recently built a story library with an old friend from Canada using Google Docs. We both filled the document over a period of time with a range of stories and memories. I was laughing to myself a number of times recalling the situations, but I also loved how she would remember scenarios and details that I had completely forgotten.
2. New stories
(Slightly harder, but can be even more interesting and fun)
Creatively compose new stories together with others. It definitely doesn’t have to be complicated. Just gather around a whiteboard or sheet of Manila paper with some markers. Take turns throwing out ideas for characters, locations, adventures, and experiences. Start writing it down and sketching it out.
Pro tip: Don’t think too much. Just start writing, and watch the magic happen!
You can even get creative with how you bring people together. Face-to-face is ideal, however technology can go a long way as well. Try:
• Starting a monthly storytelling and/or writing session
• Collaborating with other storytellers around the world synchronously, as well as asynchronously
• Gamifying it by creating a storywriting/storytelling contest or competition
Benefits of creating stories together
• Memories: Memories are produced—in the stories themselves, as well as in the story creation process. Memories do a wonderful job of connecting people.
• Bonds: Creating stories together creates bonds between the story creators. Bonds are key for families, and important for colleagues and teams, and can bring strangers together.
• Learn: Learning by doing is far better than sitting in a classroom for hours taking notes while a teacher drones on, then worrying what will be on the test. (The ‘modern’ classroom needs more engagement, collaboration, and creation.)
• Confidence: Trying, failing, giving & receiving feedback, and learning from experiences is still an excellent (and enjoyable) way to boost confidence.
• Variety: Humans appreciate diversity, and a dose of non-digital engagement is healthy these days, whether you’re a kid or an adult.
• Ideas: Collaborating on stories can also create new ideas, which can turn into solutions, which can better our world. ‘Burstiness’ is created when people come together, share ideas, building off one another. This generates great energy, and in most cases is more rewarding than a quality cat video.
Love the idea, but don’t know where to start?
If you don’t have the time, resources, or inspiration to creatively develop ways to collaborate on stories, let us co-create some with you. We at Kick Fire are passionate about storytelling, connecting people, and harnessing creativity.