How you arrange the plot points of your life into a narrative can shape who you are—and is a fundamental part of being human.
While usually framed as a tool of leisure, storytelling is actually a tool of necessity. It helps us remember. Storytelling is genetically engineered to make people remember.
John Weich, Storytelling on steroids.
Which event pushed me to investigate individual storytelling: I’ve realized that I was looking for stories I actually didn’t care about (individual stories of other people, not necessarily acquaintances, on social media) in the same way I ended up with a cigarette in my hand I actually didn’t want to have when I used to smoke. Even though I don’t consider myself particularly active on social media, am I addicted?
Also, I always felt connected to writing, but what makes sense to write nowadays, when everyone seems to be a writer and all that seems to be written are autobiographies, even if the reality in them is distorted?
What we’re experiencing isn’t a radical new movement but a storytelling renaissance, one fueled by the social media and mobile gadgetry most of us use every hour of every day. These omniscient, invasive technologies have played a vital role in evolving the age-old idea of storytelling into something more truthful, more interactive, more immersive, more collaborative.
(…) the result is that in the last decade and a half we’ve become willing participants in the most massive global storytelling experiment of all time.
John Weich, Storytelling on steroids
Ordinary” people’s cult of personal celebrity is nurtured by these new modes of communication and presentation and representation. We’re all secretly practicing for when we too, will join the ranks of the celebrated. The rising sophistication of the non experts in combination with the sensory overload of the culture makes reality-based and self-reflective art appealing now. There are little cracks on the wall and all of us “regular” people are pushing through like water, or weeds. (…)
The body gets used to a drug and needs a stronger dose in order to experience the thrill. An illusion of reality - the idea that something really happened - is providing us with that thrill right now.(…) Our culture is obsessed with real events because we experience hardly any.
David Shields, Reality Hunger
What could be more literal than The Story of My Life now being told by Everywoman and Everyman?
We can find evidence in other fields as well:
Political protest is connected to individual storytelling: we hear the word patriarchism less and less but the #metoo protest had an incredible media impact. A sum of individual stories made a community of interest, and possibly change. In the age of the fall of ideologies, we feel connected when we hear the single episode, the single person, the fragment of biographical narration. (I found very interesting Sonja Vivienne’s Digital identity and everyday activism: sharing private stories with networked publics)
Economy, and the overanalyzed concept of sharing economy is deeply influenced by individual storytelling as well. It’s about narrating one individual’s experience, our individual service we want to share with others.
Quoting Rachel Botsman, (Who Can You Trust? How Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Might Drive Us Apart):
The difference today is that, with every trade we make, comment we leave, person we flag, badge we earn, we leave a reputation trail of how well we can and can't be trusted. (…)
The big challenge is figuring out what data makes sense to pull, because the future's going to be driven by a smart aggregation of reputation, not a single algorithm. It's only a matter of time before we'll be able to perform a Facebook- or Google-like search and see a complete picture of someone's behaviours in different contexts over time. (…) Indeed, reputation is a currency that I believe will become more powerful than our credit history in the 21st century. Reputation will be the currency that says that you can trust me.
And also, the viral video of The Shed (https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/434gqw/i-made-my-shed-the-top-rated-restaurant-on-tripadvisor) shows how one single person was able to create a story, and then reality.
We manipulate the narration of ourselves because of the channel of expression we use, the public we communicate to, and the purpose we have: a bio on the Tinder app is very different from the one we have on Linkedin. Concerning the fragmentation of our individual storytelling, David Shields asserts: “as a work gets more autobiographical, more intimate, more confessional, more embarrassing, it breaks into fragments. Our lives aren’t pre-packaged along narrative lines and, therefore, by its very nature, reality-based art -unprocessed, underproduced- splinters and explodes.”
But, if what Rachel Botsman affirms will become reality, it is only a matter of time that our different virtual personas will be unified, are we are now having a collage of contradictory personalities.