Transforming Social Media Through Transformational Stories

Cindy Lollar has a lot of information on what your options are when diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer because she researched those options relentlessly when her mom was diagnosed.

But more important than her knowledge of treatment options is her insights of how a serious diagnosis can impact family members, and she shares those in a touching and warm digital story in her own called Deep Water. Her story (which is also on The National Cancer Institute’s coping with cancer webpage) was created at a workshop facilitated by the Center for Digital Storytelling.

Last week, I had the privilege of spending four hours (via skype) with Joe Lambert, one of the pioneers of digital storytelling and executive director of the Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, Ca. (He’ll be heading down my way for a 3-day training for myself and three other colleagues in August, and I can’t wait.) After the session, I felt a renewed sense of urgency to share this powerful medium. My head was spinning with new ideas on how to effectively incorporate digital storytelling into my teaching and into healthcare social media.

For those of you who may be new to digital storytelling, the Center describes digital stories as “short, first person video-narratives created by combining recorded voice, still and moving images, and music or other sounds.” Because it is produced by the person who is sharing the story and not “filtered” by a producer, editor or videographer, it is more authentic and, in my opinion, more powerful. This is just one more example of how critics that view social media as a superficial, celebrity-obsessed promotional tool have it all wrong. Given the right strategies and tools, social media can open the door to authentically rich and deeply human experiences.

Transformational experiences and positive change

In addition to having the story controlled by the storyteller, another reason digital stories remain so powerful is because the Center upholds six values and principles. As a strategist, two of these core values are key considerations as I ponder this powerful medium in the context of social media: the belief self-expression can be transformational and sharing stories can lead to positive change.

Serious health issues can often be transformational times for patients and their families, and digital storytelling is a powerful tool with which to capture and share that insight and transformation. As for positive change, there are many areas in healthcare where we want positive change: in educating our patients, in organizing communities around patients that need support, and providing advocacy for communities that may be at-risk.

If you would like to see some examples, The Center features health-related digital stories on their website. In addition, check out Silence Speaks, digital stories committed to “fostering individual and collective healing and justice.” The site was co-founded by Amy Hill who joined the Center’s staff in 2005.  In the UK, Patient Voices (I’ve blogged about them before) also hosts an active site for health-related digital stories.

If you work at a hospital or clinic and have been inspired by your patients or their family members as they journey through a serious illness, you know the power of personal stories. Whether it is to garner more support for your at-risk communities, to offer support to the newly diagnosed-digital storytelling, or to affirm your patients by recognizing their journeys, you may want to consider digital storytelling. The Center for Digital Storytelling offers a few books on their website, and there are some others out there, too.

As the Center’s opening page reminds us, there is power in listening deeply and telling stories.

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How we help

Hive Strategies helps hospitals engage patients through social media. We don’t manage social media. Instead, we help hospitals develop an effective social media strategy and mentor them through the implementation process. Start a conversation. Email us or call us at 503-472-5512.

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