Convergent, Conversational, Communal Storytelling on /r/NoSleep

Electronic literature has opened the door for anyone to become a writer and share their work with a large audience. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every piece of contemporary online literature is high quality work, but the popularity of certain pieces of writing can filter the good from the bad. Certain sites allow users to vote on original content to propel the best work into the forefront of other user’s attention. Take, for example, Reddit is an online forum that has many subsections, and a democratic system of “Upvotes” and “Downvotes” that decide how popular a piece of content is. One of the most popular subforums of Reddit is called /r/NoSleep. This forum lets its users create pieces of writing that are meant to frighten readers. The guideline to this, however, is that the piece must be written as if it actually happened. Many of the stories in this forum are well done, and the community has decided on their favorite story through its use of upvotes.

Filtering the /r/NoSleep results to “Top All Time Posts,” we can read the most popular story on the subforum. This story perfectly captures the essence of the medium that is /r/NoSleep. It is titled “My dead girlfriend keeps messaging me on Facebook. I’ve got the screenshots. I don’t know what to do.” It was written by a user called “natesw.” The author of this work tells a story that supposedly takes place from August 7th, 2012 to July 1st, 2014. It takes the form of the author telling this subforum how his girlfriend died a while back, yet he still receives messages from her Facebook account. This seems real to the readers, because the author formats his work as if it were a report of a strange occurrence in his life, instead of a traditional narration. The communal format of Reddit allows this illusion to flourish, because the site is built upon the fact that its users converse with one another online. The author adds realism by including pictures of his Facebook conversations with his dead girlfriend, as well as profile pictures that his deceased lover has posthumously tagged herself in. By using pictures of chat boxes to show a conversation between the characters, the author pushes the boundaries of conventional dialogue. Instead of conveying dialogue through quotation marks, he simply posts a picture of a conversation over Facebook. Internet savvy readers in his audience are definitely familiar with Facebook chatting, so we instantly recognize these pictures and the meaning that they convey. We think of the times that we have chatted online in our own lives, which bridges the gaps between our imagination, the real world, and the universe that this story builds.

The convergence of multiple platforms adds a complex level of depth and realism to this story. The fact that the author included pictures from a chat box of another website (one that we are all familiar with) brings the audience out of Reddit and into a more real world where multiple levels of social media exist and interact with each other. In this way, this story is similar to Vidzilla’s Resolution. Both of these authors blend multiple websites together to create a richer reading experience for their audiences. The result is a transcendent piece of media that reaches out to bridge the gap of different platforms that previously might never have interacted.

Here is the story in case you would like to read it:

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1 Response to Convergent, Conversational, Communal Storytelling on /r/NoSleep

  1. lightsabretoothtiger says:

    Being very familiar with Reddit, your post really intrigued me. To be honest, I never really thought of subreddits like /r/nosleep as electronic literature, but now I can see that it is. You make an interesting claim that anyone has become an author with the emergence of electronic literature and it is up to the users on a particular site how much attention the author receives. I think it’s important that you touched on the ways the author makes their writing feel more real, as that’s the entire point of reading a story in /r/nosleep. r


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