I am not a fan of being restricted. My ever changing and growing digital life seems smaller and smaller. Everything is more immediate an...

Once upon a character limit


I am not a fan of being restricted. My ever changing and growing digital life seems smaller and smaller. Everything is more immediate and demands that I tell short, bite size stories. The elevator lift pitch – you’ve got 2 minutes. Facebook limits the length of my status updates and comments. My blog posts are always “a little long” according to those who read them. How many times have I almost finished a tweet only to see the ‘-1’ characters left count down and have to decide which grammatical sin I’ll have to commit. Sumxs hav2 revrt2 txt spk which I h8. Too often have I heard the story of a new engagement, a pregnancy, a new job, an illness, a heartfelt act of selflessness told in somewhere around 140 characters.

My Gran told me recently how much she missed receiving hand written letters. So I started writing to her. We’ve had a most wonderful exchange over the last year – and I found that letters to my Gran reinvigorated my love for telling stories, not just sharing what happened. My first few letters went a little like this: “It’s really cold at the mo, but spring is round the corner and hope it warms up soon”. By contrast, my gran would tell me that “The sunrises here are getting longer, as if God has more time on his hands to paint the sky.” A little wistful and ethereal, sure, but I bet I enjoyed reading her letters much more than she did mine in those early days.

As a modern, digitally connected society, we are being restricted in so many ways... And I wonder how this will start to affect our relationships. I have to ask - are we losing the art of storytelling? Storytelling goes back a long way and was always the elders’ way of teaching, entertaining, and molding a young tribe. Great tales of victories, defeats, battles, kings and queens – these things were told in great detail and with animated language and tone.

So what’s the solution? I’ve got a blog, but I find that it’s almost a bit too much hassle to update. Blogging almost feels a bit outdated as a way of documenting your life stories now...

Which is why I am so excited to have discovered Cowbird. In this digital world of McStorytelling, I was delighted to have stumbled across a small, respectful community of story tellers who refuse to be bound by character limits. It’s invite only at the moment, and you have to submit a short story telling them about yourself and why you want to join – which is both fitting and refreshing! It’s also a fantastic time waster because the stories are still bite sized, but just a little longer and seem to have more care and heart put into them. The large images and video that can accompany your submissions only support your storytelling. You can document your life stories, tag people in them, tag the places where they occurred dedicate the stories to people you love. This might just be facebook, but better! Especially for those of us who have more to say than just ‘Pancakes for breakfast. Mmmm.’ If Don Draper signed up to a social network, I bet it would be Cowbird.

So I look forward to bringing back the every day campfire story – one with a little more added in for good measure, one that isn’t told as it happened, but how I remembered it. Ones that makes the digital after dinner party a success.

By Michaela MacIntyre (@mich_maci)

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