Why We Need to Pay Attention To Narratives

As children, we hear a lot of stories. Stories of fame and fortune, to humbling children’s stories that teach lessons of character and strife. We are dazzled by stories, and continue to be captivated well into adulthood.

As we get older, the stories we pay attention to change. In the age of fast media, we absorb more information in a day than our minds can often handle. We have the unique ability to shape what we see through social media likes and suggestions.

Whether we pay close attention to political narratives or movie plot lines, what we choose to focus on effects us more than we may realize.

The Focus of Narratives

In the pendulum of opinion, narratives take on a particular course based on exposure and experience.

In a recent popular campaign titled #metoo, women and men channeled their experience and exposure to sexual harassment. The social media hashtag soon took on a greater meaning as it developed traction among people who resonated with the phrase. As more stories were shared, the greater the intention of the movement became. It was no longer just a formation of victim and survivor stories.

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The narrative of the #metoo campaign is a cultural shift of ideas about how we approach and treat people who have had to deal with ridicule and injustice of the system in society. It is changing the opportunity to report harassment and be taken seriously while doing so.

In recent news, several Hollywood big shots have been exposed for their harassment against women who were simply trying to do their job. Today, Hollywood and several other cities follow suit in marching for the #metoo campaign as more than just a statement, but an act of solidarity.

For years, women and men have stayed silent about abuse against them because the system gave favor to the powerful. While the narrative still has a long way to go, it does open up doors for a needed cultural shift. Not only in the justice system, but in the everyday narrative of daily life.

What We Can Learn From Narratives

When I was in fourth grade, I came to the harrowing conclusion that Lewis and Clark were not the greatest explorers of the rugged United States. I was standing in an exhibition my father had brought me to, listening to the audio recording of the trail to the west coast. In school, they taught us that they were men of valor. While listening to the tape in a museum, I painstakingly had to shift my view of men who were celebrated as great explorers.

Their very existence caused a ripple of cultural misunderstanding and violence.The narrative I had learned in school had to shift. My younger self grieved the old narrative and soon was revealed the injustices that history wanted to categorize as normal.

As adults, narratives become harder to change. We may have one idea about something because of the single exposure we had. Every controversial subject speaks to the idea of single exposure, and the unwillingness of people to see through different eyes.

As a society, we need to take a step back to see the many perspectives that create a single narrative.

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Each narrative constructed in a story, in a news article, or in our lives is comprised of a network of experiences that create a conclusion. There is truth weaved in almost every conclusion, but society and justice cannot progress if people are not willing to take a walk in someone else’s shoes.

Why We Need to Pay Attention

We need to pay attention to narratives in media, in the stories of our friends and family, and the own string of chapters to our own life.

Why you ask? Because narratives have the power to shape history. To shape herstory. To make a difference. To expose injustice and to meet it with action. Just like the #metoo campaign, we need to listen to stories with intention, and with abandon to our own prejudices and misunderstandings.

What we learn from narratives is the good and bad in the world, and the light and darkness within ourselves. It is up to us how we react and respond to narratives in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us.

Shifting How We See Narratives

In The Narrative Series, we have talked about the topic of how we see and create narratives. How we shift narratives comes with a deeper understanding of how we originally process narratives.

What we are exposed to, whether by force or by choice, affects how we are able to see perspective.

Coming up next in the series is diving into how we can shift narratives…and why some choose not to.

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