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Is Digital The End Of Storytelling?

I recently read an article predicting the end of storytelling due to the proliferation of technology. The main theme was that people have become so accustomed to brief messages (“tweets”) and status updates that they no longer have the patience to follow a story as it unfolds.

We have certainly heard such predictions before:

Movies will create a nation of illiterates. (They didn’t.)

Television will create a nation of illiterates. (It may have come closer, but it still missed the mark.)

E-mail will destroy the art of conversation. (I still recall the outrage voiced when people sitting across the aisle from one another in an office exchanged e-mails. However, it proved to be a preference based on subject matter and importance. When they wanted to stop by and talk, they did.)

Social networking will create a nation of illiterates. (It created new styles of communication, but it is not illiteracy.)

And who can forget that computers would make us all paperless?

The digital age has definitely accelerated our expectations of response time and made us more impatient of any delay. In some cases, it can be argued that it has also abbreviated our responses. (Working on Twitter for a while definitely shortens my other messages.)

So, does this indicate a shift away from an appreciation for storytelling? Has our world become so abbreviated that we don’t have time to appreciate a story?

There are certainly people who consider storytelling a waste of time. They appreciate facts…preferably presented as bullet-points…that can be reviewed quickly.

This can work well when there is no need for an emotional investment. “Do you want to stay in and eat or go out?” “Well, we’re a bit short of cash.” “Okay, we’ll fix something here.”

Remember, though, people are hardwired to become involved in the process of storytelling. Even the “bullet-point” executive will unwind when attending a good movie for entertainment. The difference is the degree in being open to storytelling at any given time.

We all have moments when 140-characters are going to completely serve our communication need. There are other times when we want more expression. A wonderful truth about humans is that we are not one all thing or another. We are a delightful mix of expressions and desires.

When we are open to learning or to finding out as much as we can about a topic of interest, storytelling enhances our understanding. It is a welcome way to “fill in the gaps” and to create empathy that might otherwise elude us. It can also be an appreciated change of pace.

Digital may offer new avenues of storytelling that we had never considered before. (Follow @FathomButterfly on Twitter for an intriguing example of short form storytelling.) But, will it be the death of storytelling?

I don’t think so.

Thank you for reading.