More of my Q&A on the power of storytelling from Dr. Kathy Hansen’s A Storied Career blog.
Q: The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?
A: When was the last time you heard a really funny joke? When was the last time you took the time to practice and tell a terrific yarn at a party? The Internet is full of them, but like the world economy, our storytelling talents have been in recession.
When you see a cave painting created by the ancients of a person on horseback following a large beast with a spear in its side, what story are they telling? Why would they take the time to build the fire, burn the charcoal, and memorialize their victory on a dark and damp cave wall? Because story, no matter how it is told, is essential to bringing meaning and expression to life.
As the noise of advertising, media, and politics has increased over the past 50 years, our attention spans, and therefore our message delivery, has grown dramatically shorter. We have become experts at “low-resolution” communications: The sound bite, 30-second commercial, PowerPoint slides, Twitter’s 140-character character, thumbs-up liking, speed dating, and texts that replace whole words with single letters. The pendulum has swung so far in the direction of burping information like bullets out of a Thompson machine gun, that people are beginning to realize something is missing.
Storytelling is making a resurgence because the social animal in all humans craves context, depth and content in our interaction. A story that involves us as the protagonists, or at least presents a hero we can identify with, that has to overcome great odds to achieve their desires, absolutely parallels the quests in each of our lives. It is an elemental depiction of our most basic instincts and fight for survival.
We have all been in such a hurry to be heard that the dots and dashes in our high tech telegraph communication are losing resonance. We communicate in binary form like the computers we type on. I believe the pendulum is swinging back to what people are starting to long for again: Slowing down and being part of a greater story.