How do you connect with stories?

As part of Stories2Connect’s wider community engagement we were interested to find out how young people connect with stories in their daily lives. Our guest Blogger, Sophie Smith, has shared an article that forms part of her sixth form study towards an Extended Project Qualification. Here she tells us more about how she connects with stories throughout her day…

Each and every day, we submerge ourselves into hundreds of stories: it’s not just the authors telling the tales these days. It’s so easy to forget that in: every word, every page, every text and every tweet; we are all internally scripting our very own stories. Crazy huh? We may not be all living in one of our own fairy tales of Romeo and Juliet, or writing Anne Frank’s diary, but we all have experiences which have made us the people we are today: our own stories to share. In the twenty-first century, it’s never been easier for us to express our emotions and capture moments in our everyday routine. But then again, Anne Frank never had snapchat, and Romeo and Juliet definitely didn’t have access to a telephone. We, as the first generation to grow up entirely with social media, have known nothing but this instant access to news: be it global or personal, and I guess we take this for granted. We get the opportunity to witness, and be a part of so many dialogues a day without even giving it a second thought. With this in mind, I decided to try to track my day of ‘storytelling’ to see if I could actually pinpoint a number, a count of how many stories I could be a part of. It was a typical day off: do homework, see friends, watch a movie. Surely there can’t be too many stories in such an average day, right?

I started my average day by instagramming the sunrise; before getting ready and taking the train to meet up with a friend. I googled a new band, and looked up new tracks whilst on the journey to town. I never thought a simple journey would entail so many stories: but the lyrics in each track, the photo I took and the conversations I overheard on the train- proved all to be unique to the individuals, and subsequently, something for each of us to interpret differently. At lunch we went to have a mooch around some art stores before heading to a coffee shop to teach each other some new Photoshop techniques and walking home: lots of dialogue, lots of tales. We talked about everything from the technicalities of edited software to the cost of inflation with the art store worker. It really made me think about the number of people we create small-talk with, even for introverted individuals like myself!

The evening took us to classy bathroom selfies, before we both parted and I travelled home, to listen to more music (the new band I found were pretty cool). My friend uploaded the photo to snapchat, whilst I photographed my sister’s new dress for her social media. Which in turn, created more dialogue and opened a whole new category of conversations, mostly conducted over snapchat. I finished the day by researching poetry for English Lit, and debating the work of Plath with my boyfriend. Despite our so-called intellectual conversations, we had a rather pleasant chat over the phone. Afterwards, I was pretty spellbound, not just at the number of different conversations I ‘d had with family and friends, but at the countless forms in which this storytelling and sharing took place. I’m not addicted to social media (although I’m sure my mum might say otherwise), nor do I spend hours recalling my day, but I do use a variety of platforms to access and tell stories throughout my day. Today made me really think about the limitless possibilities I have as a young person. It’s not just simple face-to-face dialogue or reading narratives that allow storytelling. The media have presented modern society with something quite extraordinary: the power to change storytelling forever. Admittedly, I was defeated. I listened to far too many dialogues to recall whilst on the train, whilst making conversation myself. I’d lost count by lunchtime.

The photos I took hour-by-hour also tell a unique story of their own: capturing each moment in my day. I guess its fair to say you can’t really put a number on something with endless possibilities. But it did teach me how much of an influence other people have on our lives. If I had nobody to share my stories with, or no way of listening to other people’s tales, I’m not quite sure what I would do. Maybe it’s just my nosey personality shining through, but to me, it seems like stories are what get us through the day. There isn’t an hour in my photos I went without using some form of media to message or research online. To many, that might seem like ‘obsessive phone usage’ but to an ordinary teenager, it’s just a routine part of my day- being able to share my stories everyday keeps me touch with the world and able to communicate with others. But then, I guess it works both ways, does the power of instant access to stories mean that we neglect our own privacy? We now have the ability to tell all our Facebook friends how we feel 24/7, and post photos of our so-called perfect lives. And, although I did not plaster my social media account with photos from my day, I could easily have done so in a few taps. After all, I took the photos themselves all on Snapchat, my social messenger of choice. Despite the endless possibilities to broadcast our stories across the media, it doesn’t necessarily create the stories. The stories are made by ourselves, living our own ordinary, or indeed extra-ordinary lives. Plus, if we spent all of our time telling stories, or giving other people access to our stories, then that wouldn’t leave much time to create new memories for ourselves! I genuinely believe it’s important to share our stories and tell those around us about our own lives, and let them open up to us too. After all, that is what makes us human! Yet despite the fact that we have constant, easy access to all manner of different storytelling media it’s also easy to feel belittled by other people’s stories, as well as enriched. But of course, that makes us human too. It’s all a bit of a philosophical debate and not something that you can fit into a single blog post, but the concept of traditional vs modern storytelling is definitely something I’d like to ponder over some more… I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. How do you think the digital age has affected how we connect with stories?