Storytelling has been a vital part of how we share information for the longest time. From the Odyssey, to the Rig Veda and Bible, all passed down through written and oral tradition, this aspect of society remains essential to our existence. Yet, the rise of modern video-sharing platforms and social media has brought about dramatic change to the nature of storytelling.

The Constant Search for Newness

Just a few years ago, it would have seemed far-fetched to have so many platforms to share our stories as we now do. But thanks to technology, we now have so many ways to push content out into the world and express ourselves online.

However, this unlimited access to information has left more and more feeling overloaded. Before the rise of the internet and the increased accessibility to broadband internet services, older forms of media like novels and films had clear run times and formats that naturally limited interaction. But nowadays, we can binge-watch every movie and television show on Netflix if we feel like it, signalling a shift in the average person’s media consumption habits.

This oversaturation of media takes place in many different ways, whether it’s the 24-hour news cycle or the endless stream of social media posts we see on our smartphones. Contributing to exhausted attention spans and an urge for ‘newness’, we spread our focus thin across a wider range of topics and often simply gloss over these subjects as we click from one video or article to the next, leaving us feeling unsatisfied.

Digital Storytelling and Mediatisation

Now that we’ve entered the age of digital storytelling, perhaps the biggest change is that everyone has the power to spread their message. Before the internet, only a select few directors or novelists had the chance to reach millions, but there are now digital platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitch. In fact, users from all around the globe consume over a billion hours of YouTube videos every single day.

As digital storytelling platforms grow more complex and participatory, creators have even more ways to engage with their audience. However, people often lament how much the online content they consume is remarkably similar. This is the process of ‘mediatisation,’ where society's reliance on the media shapes society itself.

Put simply, just as people depend on the media for information and entertainment, they adapt to how the media operates to bring about structural change. For example, people might understand how spreading their messages via the media is the most effective way to gain followers. And because they know what stories receive the most attention, they deliberately create such stories to espouse their ideologies.

Searching for Realness on Social Media

Mediatisation can be extended to digital storytelling mediums such as YouTube and Instagram. People who consume media from these platforms understand what captures attention, and so will produce their own content with similar themes and in a similar aesthetic. This approach means creators limit their ideas to what audiences like to watch, and some end up struggling with authenticity.

If we’re creating content simply to appeal to an audience, do we really feel passionate about the content we produce? The idea that what we see on social media doesn’t reflect reality isn’t new, but it’s one people continue to contend with, whether they’re sharing snaps of their breakfast or pictures at the beach. As social media use is widespread, countless around the globe struggle with this unnerving desire to curate their online image.

However, online deception is being increasingly called out. A recent TikTok trend highlighted how much of social media is fake, with thousands drawing attention to posts featuring unrealistic body and beauty standards. In 2016, a study found that only 32% of people said they were honest online. Nowadays, there's a shift towards a more authentic digital life.

Tips for Sharing Authentically

Mediatisation means everyone is influenced by the content they consume. However, we can all practice good habits online to remain true to ourselves when posting stories online.

1. Share Your Opinions

Achieving success on YouTube or any other social media platform can feel like a popularity contest at times, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from expressing your true opinions. If you feel genuinely passionate about an issue that’s being ignored or misrepresented, don’t be afraid to post a response that offers a different perspective. Even if it means you’ll lose some followers or have to block an account or two, making sure your platform represents who you are as a person can feel incredibly liberating.

2. Skip Photoshop

When you’re posting a selfie or travel snaps on Facebook or Instagram, almost everyone has the urge to curate what they look like. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, considering that many who follow your profile could be complete strangers. However, if you feel like you push the boundary between real and fake, maybe it’s time to stop editing or applying filters. Even though it can be anxiety-inducing, sharing the real you is a great way to practice self-acceptance and self-love.

3. Reflect on Why You Use Social Media

Social media is a wonderful tool for digital storytelling, but you don’t have to participate simply because it exists. By thinking about why and how you use social media, it's possible to find a more authentic way forward. Instead of chasing for approval from others, consider how changing the direction and tone of your content might help you get more back from the time you spend sharing your story.

4. Avoid Comparisons to Others

Many are aware that what we consume online doesn’t line up with reality. While finding a way to stop comparing yourself to others is easier said than done, it’s a great goal to work towards. By focusing on yourself and realising that what we see of others is mostly a highlight reel from their life, you can foster self-confidence by establishing a more authentic practice.

Find Inspiration at M1

If you’re looking for some inspiration from people who have followed their own path, consider the 7 Singaporeans highlighted in M1’s Be Campaign. More than your everyday broadband service provider, M1 celebrates everyone's individuality. From world-renowned doll collector Jian Yang to our own blade runner Shariff Abdullah, expressing your individuality is something you can celebrate too.