Storytelling through social media
Benislos Thushan, founder of Digital Storytelling and a journalist at Daily Mirror joined the Values4All webinar series to talk on the implications of using social media for the youth in the Covid 19 era. The discussion took place on August 29th, 2020 via Zoom and was part of a webinar series on “Youth and IT in the Covid 19 era”. On this occasion, Benislos spoke about the benefits of storytelling and shared ways in which young people could improve their interactions on social media. He first expanded on the idea of storytelling as a useful platform to share ideas with the rest of the world as for him this depicts a process of conveying ideas, feelings and information from the narrator to the listener. The idea behind this is that every human is a storyteller. Benislos shared common examples of sharing one’s reaction to a movie, sharing feelings or making a suggestion, as forms of storytelling too. While there are multiple ways of sharing a story not only through photos, poems, videos, cartoons, but also memes, social media has today become the most used tool for storytelling. Referring to the democratization of the exchange of information, where information is published by anyone – and no longer only by journalists, writers – thanks to the internet, Benislos notes that storytelling has evolved. A storyteller used to be a simple passive narrator, but today they are active and hold a more powerful role where they interact as a participant in the story too. He further acknowledged the internet revolution, and mostly the revolution of smart phones and social media as playing a major role in taking forward storytelling. He further supported this statement by sharing insights from a 2020 survey conducted by Hootsuite indicating the rise of social media users – 9.2 % increase annually. Benislos also compared traditional media with the mass media to show the democratization of information exchange. From the beginning, mainstream media was dominated by the press, radio and television. No ordinary citizen could easily publish or share news due to excessive restrictions imposed. But with mass media – also known as ‘new media’, anyone can now share information. This information could be in the form of essays, critiques, poems, songs and photos capturing what ordinary citizens consider to be relevant and real. Thus, proving the democratic nature of this media. Further he noted that when it comes to traditional media, we have to go to a place to film or photograph an event but with mass media we can immediately share ongoing events and anticipate moments. Benislos emphasized that traditional media looks inward from the outside whereas for mass media the storyteller must take responsibility for the news that is being shared (including compiling and publishing) from the inside using a smartphone. Both of these media are essential to storytelling, notes Benislos as he concluded by reminding us social media is a crucial vehicle for storytelling for young people.