There was a time before all this internet, SEO and social media boom when newspapers were god. What they wrote is golden and nobody can refute what they say. There were times they would make an error judgment, but they could get away with it easily. Information was power back then and the print and broadcast media are the gatekeepers to it. Journalists just wrote what they want to write because this was what they think should be written.
These days, social media has shaped the way we write. These days it’s not just about information anymore but what’s trending, what’s causing traffic and what’s being shared by a lot of people. In short, we’ve gone back to the grassroots where it’s the people’s voices that are doing the informing. There are no media giants anymore.Victoria Barret writing for Forbes said, “Now our every keystroke is measured in traffic figures. And an impressively large portion of our traffic is thanks to people sharing our stories with friends and colleagues.”
This is the gist of Jonah Sach’s recently released book entitled Story Wars about how this social era we’re in has changed the way we write. From factual style of journalistic reporting, we’ve gone back to the old ways of passing one story to the next like good old wives gossiping about the latest news.
These days we read what is popular. We read what is constantly being talked about on Twitter, what’s always popping up on our News Feed and we’re curious why this certain YouTube video has gained so many hits.
“The story wars are all around us. They are the struggle to be heard in a world of media noise and clamor. Today, most brand messages and mass appeals for causes are drowned out before they even reach us. But a few consistently break through the din, using the only tool that has ever moved minds and changed behavior—great stories.”
Sometimes Facts Lie
If we reread our history books, we can see so many things omitted, altered and beautified. We know that this great president won the war for us but we don’t know to what extent. We celebrate a certain event with pride and yet we were never told how much sacrifices were made to achieve it.
History books lie because, as Jonah Sachs said, “We’ve learned over time that facts can be manipulated. There’s almost disdain for facts. So build your stories around shared values.”
What Jonah Sach’s is pointing out is that if we look at our social media, people have become wary of factual writing. Instead we base our knowledge on what people are expressing. The new generation of readers are longing for a writing style that is more emotional, that is heartfelt, in short a literature kind of storytelling.
It’s Not Me It’s You
The reason we like fiction writing is because it’s not about us but about somebody else that we can relate to. This is also the reason why we still love our fairy tales. We see someone in great trouble but in the end they overcome it.
What the new generation has come to abhor is a selfish style of writing. Take advertising that promotes their products in an obvious way. It’s so old style, right? We want a marketing style with a story. Or actually, we don’t want marketing, we just want stories.
In creative writing, the ones that are most popular are the one that are told from the heart. Whether the voice is cold, whether the tone is action movie gruff, but if it’s coming from an honest voice, it’s universally proven, it’s going to be a hit.
All these were shaped with the rise of social media where it’s the people who are talking and not the ones in authority. User generated content is what SEO calls it, but going back to basics it’s simply called storytelling.