Beware the ‘Storification’ of the Internet

A recent break in fact Frasier I saw the two trades played back to back. First, for United, he wanted to tell me “the story of the airline”, which the commercial characterized as sci-fi, romance and adventure, starring 80,000 “hero characters” otherwise known as employees. The second ad, for ESPN, argued that college football has everything that “makes a great story”: drama, action, “an opening that pulls you in, a middle that won’t let you go, and a burst of emotion; a nail-biter, a bite, an ending.”

There is a growing trend in American culture of what literary theorist Peter Brooks calls “storification.” As he discusses the horse in turn in his new book. Seduced Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrativewe are too burdened with mythical conventions to understand the world around us, which results in a “critical narrative” that affects almost every form of communication – between the way doctors interact with patients, how financial reports are written; tions and corporations to consume themselves. Meanwhile, other modes of expression, interpretation, and comprehension, such as analysis and argument, have fallen by the wayside.

The danger of this arises when the public does not understand that many of these stories are constructed through deliberate choices and omissions. Enron, for example, misled the public because it was “built entirely on stories-fictions, in fact … it generated stories to spend large sums of money,” Brooks writes. Other recent scams, like those pulled by Purdue Pharma, NXIVM, and Anna Delvey, have succeeded because people fell for the scam stories. In other words, we could all benefit from a close reading and a dose of skepticism.

Brooks’ extensive body of teaching, with the foundational book of 1984, Reading for Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative, You have helped our author understand how narrative functions in literature and in life. As such, he knows that his penchant for criticism is not entirely new. Johanna Didion came to a similar conclusion in her 1979 memoir “The White Album” with the oft-repeated statement: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” (Brooke’s version is bleaker: “We pretend not to die in a world conditioned by our treachery.”) In our confusion, we search desperately for the defining characteristics of stories: clearly defined heroes and villains. motives, stakes

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But there’s a strong narrative at work today that Brooks, 84, can’t grasp Seduced Police: deeply When he does this, he not only ill-limits reason; It lacks how the ability to critically read and understand the way a narrative is composed is even more important now than when the novel, the themes of its main focus, reigned as one of the most important forms of media. His only mention is of the internet-wide recognition that “Twitter and Quenty dominate the presentation of reality” and that ours is “the age of fake news and Facebook” – without realizing that on the internet in particular, there is a more attentive, analytical reading. essential

If in social disorders we use stories to make sense of our world, on the internet we use stories to make sense of ourselves. Filmmaker Bo Burnham, who grew up on the internet, is one of the sharpest chroniclers of digital media shaping our inner lives. In an interview for his 2018 movie The Eighth Degree, about a 13-year-old girl coming of age online, Burnham said that when it comes to the Internet, the talking heads focus too much on social trends and political threats rather than on the “subtle” changes that are less noticeable within individuals. “It’s something internal that actually changes our view,” he said. “We really only spend time building a narrative for ourselves, and we feel with people that there was a real pressure to look at life as a kind of movie.”

Look at TikTok, where storytelling has become the lingua franca. In the videos on the app, users encourage each other to “do tricks” or to claim their “bad-character energy” and, crucially, to move the event. One TikTok tutorial shows users how to buy a video to “make your life look like a movie.” “I really hate when I’ve gone through all the trauma,” one 19-year-old says in a tongue-in-cheek clip. “I’d rather say ‘shit’.” But it also provides a language to express hard feelings: In another video, a lost teen stars in the camera above the text, “I know that I am a side character, i. I have no purpose, except to sit and wait for the next scene.”

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Here, and in most other corners of the internet, narrative taxonomy prevails. We tell ourselves stories to live, yes, but we also change ourselves into let the stories come alive. Among the shapeless, infinite internet, which Burnham describes as “a little bit of all time” — a clear language of story appeals, helping to structure our experience both offline and online. The fact that we can read ourselves to others is essentially the mandate of social media. We encourage you to create a brand aesthetic and inspire anecdotes on LinkedIn and project sincerity on BeReal. On Instagram, “Stories” allow users to broadcast moments and experiences to their followers, and try one. Mashable The article argues that you should re-view your life in the third person, refracted and packaged and reframed through a camera lens. “What more do we want,” Burnham asks in his 2016 special; Make them happy“rather than lie in our bed at the end of the day and watch our lives as a fed-up member of the audience?”

Social media is central to storytelling because storytelling is, in Brooks’s words, “a social act.” This is not a bad thing in itself, but it is vital to be aware of the tricks and webs we put on in our public life. As he wrote about the narrators of our lives, so Brooks writes, “we must recognize the inadequacy of narratives to solve our own problems.” [others’] problems.” Brooks, drawing from Freudian psychoanalysis, concludes that stories are a tool we use to understand ourselves better than the objective in and of itself.

Sometimes it will brush against other strategic ideas. In one place, Francis quotes the philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard, who argues that in this modern age “grand narratives” – progress, liberation, salvation, etc. — whole societies once sustained have lost their power. “We are left with many mini-nations everywhere,” Brooks adds, “individual or collective and, in many cases, dominantly narcissistic and self-serving.” At the same time, those things which we perceive as truths and truths are indeed urged by concern. What does Brooke do, for example? Atlantic Contributor Charlie Warzel claims that 2017 was “the year the internet destroyed our common things,” setting the stage for alternating facts and conspiracy theories? Dark; Rivi drops the fascinating idea of ​​”many mini-narratives everywhere” (a little of everything every day) he introduces as quickly as possible.

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He drew his new wool and stream and was content to stay in it. But many recent developments in the novel, the ever-more common “trauma plot,” the “representation trap” happening to many black fiction writers, the growing fusion of novels with moral fables, how they relate to who history, regardless of medium, can become an undue political, representational, or moral burden. Although Brooks briefly worries about “inflated claims about [narrative’s] the ability to solve all personal and social problems”, in the first chapter, never returns again in the many frequent and rich and tight readings that follow.

It is unfortunate that Brooks does not see how broad his argument is. Today, stories have become ubiquitous, thanks in part to the internet’s democratization of the storyteller—who can write or film their experiences and put them online. And “telling a story” – in a novel or a film, a Twitter thread or a TikTok video – has also been disproportionately emphasized, often as a “powerful” way to generate empathy and change.

Brooks bristles against this in his own way. In the second chapter Seduced Police– for example, he discusses what he calls “narrative epistemology”, that is, how do we know where the writer’s knowledge comes from, or what is his method of action? The question he applies to the works of Faulkner and Diderot felt particularly relevant to me as I looked at later commentaries that praised the virtues of the play. Many of the stories that reach us through our desks require a lawyer’s type of scrutiny. A critical minded and literate public is the only antidote to the culture of pre-eminence.

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