While examining the social and psychological benefits of storytelling, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Time Magazine’s Jules Hotz spoke to Society member Deborah Goldstein about our own twice-monthly online Storytelling Circle:
That far-off destination in Scotland was the setting of one story told in the free, virtual circle that Goldstein, her mother, and dozens of others join every other Thursday. Hosted by the New York Society for Ethical Culture—one of many groups creating online spaces to share stories—the circle gives credence to a growing body of research connecting storytelling to profound mental health benefits, which is particularly welcome as anxiety and loneliness continue to climb.
Before Goldstein became immersed in the virtual circle’s stories, she found herself “rabidly reading” a different kind of story: the news. But the recent retiree soon realized that constantly keeping up with the news was “a lot”—a feeling so ubiquitous that even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised taking breaks. Goldstein, a self-described anxious person, realized she needed an escape.
Though Goldstein says she’s always loved folk storytelling, she’d “never gone to anything like this, or known it existed” until Ethical Culture—a group she’d long been a member of—started offering virtual storytelling circles during the pandemic. Now, for the past year and a half, she’s attended regularly. “It wasn’t talking about COVID, it wasn’t talking about politics, it was just comforting,” Goldstein says of the circle. “I found my anxiety definitely lessening.”