Beware the ‘Storification’ of the Internet

Recently, during the ad break in the section of Frasier I have watched, two trades played back to back. For the first time, for United, want to tell me “the story of the plane,” which commercial drama such as sci-fi, romance, and adventure, starring 80,000 “hero character” limited feed called workers. The second post, for ESPN, argued that college football has everything that “makes a good story”: drama, drama, “the opening that makes you understanding, the middle that will not let you go, and the desire, nail-biting.”

There is a growing trend in American culture of what literary theorist Peter Brooks calls “storification.” Since the millennium, he argues in his new book, Seduced by Story: The Uses and Abuses of Narrative, we have relied too much on conventional language to understand the world around us, which has led to “descriptive explanations” that affect all forms of communication – including the way doctors interact with patients, how financial reports are written, and the products companies use to present themselves to customers. Meanwhile, other forms of teaching, interpretation, and understanding, such as analysis and argument, have fallen by the wayside.

The danger of this happens when the public doesn’t understand that many of these stories are made up of choices and omissions. Enron, for example, duped people because it had “created a special kind of story-fiction, the truth … that created stories of great wealth to come,” Brooks wrote. Other recent scams, like those pulled by Purdue Pharma, NXIVM, and Anna Delvey, have been successful because people fell for the story the criminals spun. In other words, we can all benefit from a lesson in close reading and a dose of skepticism.

Brooks’ extensive body of scholarship, including his 1984 book, Reading for Meaning: Design and Purpose in Narrative, help advance our understanding of how explanations work in literature and in life. Therefore, he knows that his criticism of the preferred explanation is not new. Joan Didion came to a similar conclusion in her 1979 essay “The White Album,” written by the oft-quoted phrase “We tell ourselves stories to live.” (Brooks’s version is a little bleaker: “We have the fiction to not die of the hope of our world.”) In times of crisis, we find the most difficult ways to know how to tell a story: clearly identify the heroes and villains. , motives, and stakes.

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But there are powerful narratives at work today that Brooks, 84, understands unexpectedly in Seduced by Story: on the internet. In doing so, he does not undermine his argument; he does not remember how the ability to read criticism and know how to explain is more important now than when the novel, the subject of most of his analysis , has reigned as one of the most important media outlets. His single reference to the internet—the unequivocal assertion that “Twitter and memes dominate the presentation of reality” and that ours is “an era of fake news and Facebook”—isn’t understand that on the Internet especially, listen carefully, read reviews is important.

If there is a crisis in society we use stories to make sense of our world, then on the internet we use stories to make sense of ourselves. Filmmaker Bo Burnham, who grew up with and on the internet, is one of the foremost experts on how digital media shapes our inner lives. In an interview for his 2018 film, Grade eight, about a 13-year-old girl coming of age online, Burnham said that when it comes to the internet, talking heads focus too much on social and political threats rather than is of the “subtler,” less noticeable change it makes to people. . “There is something inside, something that has changed our own perception of ourselves,” he said. “We spend a lot of time creating narratives for ourselves, and I know with people that it’s really hard to watch someone’s life like a movie.”

Just look at TikTok, where the story has become in English. In videos on the app, users encourage each other to “do the project” or claim their “vital energy” – and, importantly, film the results. A TikTok tutorial shows users how to edit videos to “make your life look like a movie.” The story-telling is often used to complain: “I hate it when people call everything I’ve been through ‘trauma’,” a 19-year-old said in tongues. forehead clip. “I like to call it ‘lore.'” But it also gives words to negative thoughts: In another video, an immature young man stares into the camera above text. , “I know that I am an outsider, I have no purpose but to sit and wait for my next place.”

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Here, and in most other corners of the internet, narrative taxonomy prevails. We are telling our own stories for a living, yes, but we are also turning ourselves off into stories to live. In the midst of the negative, endless internet – which Burnham describes as “a little bit of everything at all times” – the beautiful words of the story please, help improve our knowledge in online and offline. Making ourselves visible to others is, in essence, the law of social media. We are encouraged to create a brand and create a beautiful, inspiring message on LinkedIn and the truth on BeReal. On Instagram, “Stories” allow users to share moments and experiences with their followers, and it is interesting, one Mashable The article argues, to look at yourself again – look at your life in third person, packed and refracted through the lens of the camera. “What more do we need,” Burnham asked in his 2016 feature, Be Happy“than lying in our beds at the end of the day and just watching our lives as an interested audience?”

Social media affects storytelling because storytelling is, in Brooks’ words, “a practice.” This is not a bad thing, but it is important to be aware of the artifice and fans we put into our lives in public. As narrators of our lives, Brooks writes, “we must recognize the inadequacy of our narratives to resolve ourselves and [others’] problem.” Drawing from Freudian psychoanalysis, Brooks concluded that storytelling should be a tool we use to better understand ourselves rather than an end in itself.

It occasionally brushes up against other ideas over time. At one point, he quotes the French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard, who said that in our next era, “the great narrative” – ​​progress, freedom persistence, salvation, etc. – which once supported the whole society have lost their power. “We’re left with a lot of little narratives everywhere,” Brooks continued, “individual or collective and, in many cases, often narcissistic and self-serving. self.” The breakdown of what we see as reality and reality is a major concern. How Brooks does, for example, of Atlantic Charlie Warzel’s assertion that 2017 is “the year the internet destroys our unity,” setting the stage for other truths and conspiracy theories? Not sure; Brooks puts forward the fascinating idea of ​​”lots of little narratives everywhere” (A little bit of everything all the time) as soon as it shows.

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Brooks has delineated his line-the new one-and is the content in it. But many of the recent developments in the novel—the presence of more “trauma stories,” “representational devices”—influence many black writers, the connection between a novel with a moral – about what to do. one thing the story, regardless of the medium, can become unprofessional, representative, or serious. Although Brooks was briefly concerned about the “demands for money about [narrative’s] able to solve all personal and social problems” in the first chapter, it never returns in the many rich and intense close readings that follow.

It’s a shame that Brooks doesn’t see how valid his argument is. Today, stories have become more common, thanks in part to the internet’s freedom of storytelling – anyone can write or film their experiences and post them online. And “telling a story” – in a novel or a film, a Twitter feed or a TikTok video – has also become an understatement, often seen as a “brave” approach to create understanding and political change.

In his own way, Brooks bristles against this. In the second chapter of Seduced by StoryFor example, he talks about what he calls the “epistemology of explanation” – in other words, how do we know where the narrator’s knowledge comes from, or what his process will be? how? The question, which he applied to works by Faulkner and Diderot, had a special impact on me when I looked at the retrospective publication that made a great contribution to the story. Many of the narratives that reach us through our screens require the kind of analysis Brooks advocates for. A more opinionated and social media population is the only antidote to a culture in thrall to a good story.

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