Ever since I was a little plastic-heel-wearing, tu-tu twirling girl, I have always been fascinated with the idea of storytelling. Before becoming a poet and a speaker, I told stories from the perspective of others through the art form of theater. I never intended on really pursuing a career directly related to the arts, and instead studied Psychology in college and realized how integrated the idea of storytelling was in that field as well. And then finally, the idea of story telling through the lens of photography, being able to capture still moments of stories and freeze them as a memory.
Storytelling is not just a past time or way of remembering parts of history, but it’s actually a part of us.
In her book, Rising Strong, author Brené Brown talks about how stories are not just something we enjoy hearing or telling, but that we are connected to them on a deeper and intellectual level. “We’re wired for story. In a culture of scarcity and perfectionism, there’s a surprisingly simple reason we want to own, integrate, and share our stories of struggle. We do this because we feel the most alive when we’re connecting with others and being brave with our stories - it’s in our biology. The idea of storytelling has become ubiquitous. It’s a platform for everything from creative movements to marketing strategies. But the idea that we’re ‘wired for story’ is more than a catchy phrase. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has found that hearing a story - a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end - causes our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin. These chemicals trigger the uniquely human abilities to connect, empathize, and make meaning. Story is literally in our DNA.”
Stories are such a necessary part of our society and who we are as human beings because it reminds us that we are connected, no matter the differences in our background or culture. When I first started dabbling in social media through Myspace (anyone remember that?), I realized that not only do we love to tell, be part of, and take in stories, but that we are stories. These spaces that we could alter, customize, and share our thoughts and experiences in a very public forum to both strangers and friends alike, became our outlets to not only share stories, but to become them.
Then slowly, other forms of social medias came into our culture; from Facebook allowing us to connect with friends past, current, and potentially even future, to Instagram taking storytelling in real time to another level. The ability to curate feeds, connections, and pages that directly relate to who we are, what we do, and where we hope to go has completely transformed the concept of networking in phenomenal ways.
But in the midst of this curation, we started to lose something else: authenticity in our storytelling.
It is easy to get on social media and assume that everyone is living their most aesthetically pleasing, seamlessly curated, photo-worthy lives. Especially with outlets that allows us to put our best foot forward 24/7; our best hairstyles, most highlighted moments, and instagrammable food. We forget that we are just humans behind these screens who cry, get their hearts broken, live most their days in yoga pants, and often don’t leave our homes (let alone our beds) when we work. It has become assumed that the life we create on our social media channels is the one that we live daily. We don’t realize that it’s missing the necessary messy of what makes us human.
Everyone enjoys a good filter and the perfect golden hour. We are people who appreciate the beauty in life, and rightfully so, but we can glorify the beauty in a way that makes us think that’s how life should be all the time.
I have always assumed that my vulnerability was too overbearing or just plain unnecessary, but as my social media following grew, I realized it was something that people were craving.
We desire the ability to be real, authentic, and honest with our human capacity to feel. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated, and still do, a good, aesthetically pleasing photo with an outfit that I probably planned days in advance. But one of the things I strive to focus on within my engagement are the narratives of realness; the very raw candidness of where I’m at in that season, what I’m learning, and what I’m feeling. I realized that I didn’t want my social media channels to just be outlets where I put my best foot forward all the time, and conveyed the lie that’s how my life is 24/7. I wanted my social media outlets to be a continuation of who I was already, not who I was trying to be. I noticed that the posts that gained the most engagement were often the ones I would refer to as “spilling the captions” that were more personal and honest, rather than the sassy, short-and-sweet ones. In studying these posts with the most comments or likes, I realized one thing: we strive to connect and thread ourselves into others’ stories.
Our social media pages are more than just photo feeds, they are still shots of who we are, what we’re passionate about, and what we stand for. They are extensions of ourselves, our stories, and they should encapsulate not only the beautiful moments, but also the messy; the most authentic aspect of who we are being brought to light. Each of us are walking, breathing, beautiful stories that have been uniquely given to each of us, and the ability to connect those stories with people from all over the world through social media is a gift - one to tread softly on with grace, intentionality, and authenticity.
Photos courtesy of Arielle Estoria