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Monday, August 01, 2011

Story and Good News - Setting

Stories start with a setting. It might be as simple as "Once upon a time" or as profound as "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." But every story starts with a setting. It's important to think about the settings of stories when we use technology to communicate. Technology removes much of the context for the communication, we don't have the body language or tone of the spoken word. We lack knowledge of a book's author and publisher giving us clues about the content. Words on the internet are voiceless, faceless and without most of the context of other words that we encounter in our lives, so we need to spend even more time providing a setting and inviting people to engage in story with us.

Fighting against us is the temptation to be anonymous. The internet provides this sense of security and invulnerability. We can be anyone we want and say anything we want without fear of repercussions in our regular life. It can be intoxicating to give vent to frustration in online conversations. But what ends up happening is that we divorce ourselves from our stories. We might invent a new story, but we are using the internet to ignore and avoid the story of who we are and how we've gotten to this point in life.

At first it feels liberating to be set free from the bonds of our story. We don't have to claim our mistakes. We don't have to own up to our failures. We can be bold online when we're timid in real life. We can be brash instead of bashful. It's a sense of liberty that numbs us to our real story and to the way that our story touches those around us. We aren't who we are in spite of our history, but because of it. Every mistake has shaped our story. Hiding from the story is hiding from ourselves. It's a numbing tactic every bit as crippling, in the long run, as getting drunk or high.

Stories are what bring us together as a community. When we lose the setting of our story and the shared context with the people around us, we lose out on community.

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