Technology shapes our lives. Due to the rewarding benefits that technology provides, it leads many of our actions in a variety of interesting directions.
For example, look at what social media has done to storytelling due to the clear benefits of personal branding. If you’re looking for a job, you’ll likely spend hours fine tuning your LinkedIn profile, making sure that you look as good as possible for any potential employer that happens to view it. If your an entrepreneur, your efforts on social media will have a direct impact on your business, so it’s only natural to think about this when creating blog posts, tweets, and Facebook posts.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to benefit from social media or getting some value back from the stories we share about ourselves with others, but have we become selfish storytellers?
In my TEDx talk at TEDxNormal, I discussed “The Importance of Being an Unselfish Storyteller.” To you, I’d like to pose the question “What if Everyone Became an Unselfish Storyteller?”
To define it, an unselfish storyteller is someone who recognizes and takes advantage of a potential opportunity to help someone else with a personal anecdote, piece of advice, or in-depth piece of knowledge with absolutely nothing to gain in return other than intrinsic rewards.
I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and have been on and off of a long list of medications since around the age of 13. My experiences with the disorder, although uncomfortable to share and potentially embarrassing, have value to other people who may be struggling with it or seeking information on the topic to help someone else.
In 2010, a friend of mine shared that one of their relatives had recently been in and out of the hospital due to panic attacks and high anxiety, which I have also had experience with. While my experiences may have been completely different, sharing some of the details of what I went through helped calm that friend and they then shared these experiences and offered my help to their relative. Although we had known each other for years, this topic had never come up because it’s something we try to avoid discussing. By sharing it, I didn’t save someone’s life or help change their point of view on their own struggles, but personally, knowing that there are people to talk to about tough situations I’m facing is comforting and helps me deal with what I’m going through.
Social isolation is one of the primary causes of and reasons depression escalates to suicide. Even with the goal of proving to someone that they are not alone, sharing these tough and hard to talk about situations and experiences can make a real, tangible impact on the world.
If we all became unselfish storytellers
If everyone became an unselfish storyteller, the stigma around mental illness, LGBTQ, diseases, and many other issues would significantly lessen because people would have information on these issues that they previously didn’t have. Just look at the legislation that has happened because of the stories and the open conversations that have been had about gay marriage. Imagine if other important causes received this same attention.
Suicides would dramatically decrease. Is that a bold claim? Yes, it is, but Suicide.org states that over 90% of people who commit suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death. 90%! Having other people who have struggled with similar issues open up will give comfort to those in need and may lead many towards getting the help that they need.
How you can become an unselfish storyteller
Starting today, I want you to think of the toughest situation you’ve ever gone through. Do other people have to go through this same experience? Are there parts of this story that could help someone else? Just by being aware that you have a story with the power to help someone else will help you find opportunities to share it.
Please, share your story not because of the power it has to add Twitter followers or Facebook friends, but for the purpose of bringing courage to those around you.
What story do you have to share that could help someone else?