In 2012, I had the rare privilege to hike Little Petroglyph Canyon, a lava trench in the Mojave Desert that is full to the brim with ancient Native American rock art. At the time, I was working as a freelance journalist for the local paper and writing a personal blog just for fun.
Hiking between the walls of glossy black rock, etched everywhere with depictions of animals and people and the sun and mysterious geometric shapes, it was a true testament to the timeless human conviction that what we know must be recorded, preserved, and passed on. Here I was, working for a disposable publication, and blogging in a virtual landscape that required nothing from me. It was easy.
It was not easy for the people who carved these walls. For them, it was hard.
As we waded through centuries of rock carvings, a question burned in my mind – “What were they trying to tell us?” Whatever it was, it felt very important to them. They couldn’t let it go. It had to be made immortal. It had to be set in stone.
One of the greatest misconceptions about the digital era – with all the noise and chatter and content and sharing and posts and NOISE – is that we share stories on a whim, because it’s easy to do. Because we’re narcissistic by nature.
But it takes more than a slight inclination and a big ego for a man to spend days carving their story into lava rock with their bloody, bare hands. Saving the story was carried out with a determination matched only by the will to survive.
Much like early people groups went to great lengths to obtain salt, it was like they instinctively knew that stories are essential. Not extra.
What if they were on to something?
What if passing on our knowledge is essential to our survival in some way that we don’t understand? All we have is this instinct, this nagging impulse to save the story.
So yes, the internet is noisy. There are more stories written online everyday than you can read in a lifetime. But volume of content isn’t us reacting to this sudden access to free publishing. Rather, it’s the other way around.