Social Media as Both Storytelling and Means to Communicate About Story

In the run-up to Storytelling Weekend, practitioners had an interesting conversation on Golden Fleece’s Working Stories discussion group about the desirability of tweeting the conference. Steve Denning, leader of yesterday’s Smithsonian portion of the conference, maintained that he is “old school” and not fond of the idea of people tweeting during conference sessions. The conference was to focus on face-to-face storytelling, after all, Denning pointed out.

But Michael Margolis expressed a different perspective:

Storytelling is happening across many mediums and communication channels, even in the most “old-school” organizations. There is a communications revolution under way. If you want to go where the boundaries of “story” are really evolving, expanding, and being redefined — it’s in social media. Countless organizations get that. We probably should too. Being relevant means we have to talk about it, engage with, and make it our friend.

It’s easy to fear and knock down that which we don’t really know or understand. Sure, is there lots of noise and irrelevance on social media? Of course. Is it an absolute time suck if you don’t know how to use it purposefully? You bet. Are lots of people using the platforms for their own ego machinations? Yup. Despite, all these “valid” excuses, social media is changing how we tell stories, shape our identities, manage relationships, process knowledge, and make meaning. Can it be a positive game-changer? Plenty of examples to support that too. We each have to decide where and how we want to play.

While I know many story purists feel the notion of social media as a storytelling venue cheapens the definition of story, I tend to agree with Michael that social media is expanding and redefining storytelling. And I find it fascinating that social media is not only a way to tell a story, but also a way to tell story’s story.

So, who won the argument? No tweets emerged from the Thursday night storytelling weekend event. Leaders Thaler Pekar and Svend-Erik Engh said participants were too engaged to tweet. The Friday Smithsonian event got moderately tweeted. A little more than halfway through today’s Golden Fleece Day, tweets seem heaviest for this event. Even Denning is doing his share of tweeting.