The Power and Potential of Storytelling

Scrolling on any social media site and attempting to educate yourself on current events these days feels like ripping off a band aid -- the kind that’s big and been stuck to you for a while. You know it’s necessary to remove, but it’s still going to sting. Welcome to the 24-hour news cycle.

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There are white supremacists walking the streets, men with the ever-peculiar access to automatic weapons murdering innocent people en masse,policies upon policies being introduced that harm the most vulnerable Americans, our leadership uses harmful language and their own twitter feeds to provoke others, another notable man has been accused of sexual assault, another child has gone missing, and occasionally, there’s another cute video of a cat doing something stupid. These are my favorite posts, though they don’t do much to inform.

Our news streams are constant. This has allowed for more diverse voices and topics to be represented in media, which means we’re now having more informed conversations about social issues than ever before. The 24-hour news cycle has improved some of our information seeking and understanding of the world—even when that understanding is grimmer than we’d really want it to be.

Even with this impressive minute-by-minute access to new information and breaking news, there’s something sorely lacking from my news feeds and timelines. I find myself looking for the human interest in pieces. Where’s the real story behind these stories? How does this event affect the daily lives of actual people? Who in the community is combatting this event? Who needs more help to overcome the event? Who did this event bring together? What about this event, as terrible as it is, is providing some sort of hope?

Our news stories are missing the complexity of the human condition, and without it, we will continue to only know stories in halves and only try to know fellow human beings in pieces. We’ll continue to lack empathy and only accept half-truths as full facts.There has to be a way, in spite of this, to tell the whole story behind social issues. The human story.

"Our news stories are missing the complexity of the human condition, and without it, we will continue to only know stories in halves and only try to know fellow human beings in pieces."


It’s imperative to honor the human existence by telling every aspect of it. The happy parts, the heartbreaking parts, the emotions behind the motive, and the hope that keeps us going. Authentic storytelling is key to bringing us through even the worst of times, and the beautiful part about it is that we as humans already do it so well.

We all engage in storytelling and narrative framing in everyday life. You have to tell your coworker about the crazy traffic you ran into this morning. Your mom said the funniest thing on the phone this morning and your sibling has to know about it. An elder in the community shares their experience with you. We tell stories to those around us, we post them on social media, and we listen and read about others daily. These narratives—while never absolute—help us to understand ourselves and others better. Narratives allow us to break away from any imaginary duality--of place, personhood, religion, and more. Life is complex and our existence amongst tragedy and joy is never fully captured in a quick headline.

Capturing the narrative behind humanity can heal us in ways the regular 24-hour news cycle can’t. It can show us that we aren’t the only ones struggling and push us to empathize with situations we haven’t encountered. It can be a resistance that won’t take the limited representations we currently see as the full story. It can prove us wrong and push us to learn more about others. And most of all, it can foster human connection that is necessary for us to continue cohabitating in the world.

"Life is complex and our existence amongst tragedy and joy is never fully captured in a quick headline."

 

Foreword South is intent on amplifying stories about the full range of the human condition. Our team sits with people who were often strangers to us minutes before and asks them to tell us everything. Where did you grow up? Who are your people? What’s the hardest part of your daily work? Why do you do what you do? Who helped you along the way? By the end of the interview, we’re able to stitch together a new understanding of a person and create a different narrative than everything we scroll past. Each story our team posted resonates with someone new in a different way for reasons others may not be able to understand. That’s why it’s important.

Human narratives are powerful. They heal our hearts, soothe our minds, and remind us we aren’t alone. Storytelling creates the potential of recognizing a complicated reality and learning how to live within it while helping others. In times like this, when the world seems hopeless and even the most dedicated change-makers are feeling burnt out, connecting with another can be the hope to push for another day.

"Foreword South is intent on amplifying stories about the full range of the human condition." 

 

Foreword South started and will continue to be a platform for storytelling for these very reasons. We’re disrupting the 24-hour news cycle and contextualizing the human story. We’re encouraging empathy and human connection--even amongst people who have never encountered each other. We’re creating a collective of Southern stories about hard work and perseverance. And we’ll continue to do so as the world needs it.

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- M. S.