Facebook’s Story Change: Life’s Not a Narrative
“Once upon a time…” the storyteller says, and we lean forward. We all love being held in a master storyteller’s hands; we love it because it is easier to listen to a story than to tell one.
That’s why Facebook’s new format raises some intriguing questions. At the top of the page, where it used to say “News,” it now says “Stories.” I can chose between seeing “Top Stories Since My Last Visit” (right now, there are 11 of them) or “37 More Recent Stories.”
All of these “Stories” string together in Facebook’s new profile function, Timeline. With Timeline, all of your Facebook posts will flow together in chronological order. “Tell the story of your life,” Facebook promises in its introductory video.
If only it were that easy.
Storytelling’s hard work because, as every writer knows, you have to know where you’re going: Plan your character’s end – then build toward that. For instance, when we’re working on a movie we always start with the third act. Lots of screenwriters can come up with great beginnings, but few can craft a killer third act.
This is especially true when the main character dies. For such a story, the storyteller must build toward the character’s demise with a sense of narrative push – and leave some other characters alive in the aftermath, continuing characters whose lives will be changed, for better or worse, by the death, and who will go on.
After all, the story’s being told to us, the living. We may have identified with the main character, but if the main character dies, we have to go on too. We listen to stories of death because they promise to give some meaning to our lives.
A life is lived forwards, but its story is told in reverse. Just as, in writing a good sentence, an author builds the words logically, with foreknowledge how the sentence must complete, until the words close the sentence at its necessary end, with a period.
Random words don’t make a sentence, and haphazard events don’t make a life’s story.
The problem, of course, is that just as arbitrary events don’t constitute a story, our Facebook posts don’t tell our life stories either, for two reasons.
First, we don’t put everything on Facebook. We have privacy issues (especially with the new changes; here’s how to take better control of your privacy settings), we don’t want advertisers to know all our habits, some things we only share with certain people, and after all, we spend our lives living life, not creating content for Facebook’s pages. Facebook posts are, at best, a random and anecdotal selection of a few things we experience. They may or may not be important. We often don’t know what’s important until well past the event.
Which brings us to the second reason Facebook posts can’t be a story. We don’t know how or when we’ll die. The Greek poet Solon counseled, “Count no man happy until he is dead,” and he was right; we can’t know how to tell the story of a life until it is over.
We may get some attention on Facebook, but we don’t get narrative.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam Leipzig is the founder and CEO of MediaU, online career acceleration. MediaU opens the doors of access for content creation, filmmaking and television. Adam, Cultural Daily’s founder and publisher, has worked with more than 10,000 creatives in film, theatre, television, music, dance, poetry, literature, performance, photography, and design. He has been a producer, distributor or supervising executive on more than 30 films that have disrupted expectations, including A Plastic Ocean, March of the Penguins, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Dead Poets Society, Titus and A Plastic Ocean. His movies have won or been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, 11 BAFTA Awards, 2 Golden Globes, 2 Emmys, 2 Directors Guild Awards, 4 Sundance Awards and 4 Independent Spirit Awards. Adam teaches at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. Adam began his career in theatre; he was the first professional dramaturg in the United States outside of New York City, and he was one of the founders of the Los Angeles Theatre Center, where he produced more than 300 plays, music, dance, and other events. Adam is CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, a company that navigates creative entrepreneurs through the Hollywood system and beyond, and a keynote speaker. Adam is the former president of National Geographic Films and senior Walt Disney Studios executive. He has also served in senior capacities at CreativeFuture, a non-profit organization that advocates for the creative community. Adam is is the author of ‘Inside Track for Independent Filmmakers ’ and co-author of the all-in-one resource for college students and emerging filmmakers 'Filmmaking in Action: Your Guide to the Skills and Craft' (Macmillan). (Photo by Jordan Ancel)