Social media - friend or foe?

Hands up who has a social media account?

I think most of us put our hands up there; and I bet a large percentage have more than one account. I know I do. I have personal accounts and business accounts for The Play’s the Thing Theatre Company, each on a number of different platforms – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter! 

Did you know it’s estimated that in 2019 there are going to be 2.77 billion social media users around the world? So, that’s millions of individuals and businesses sharing content to their followers every minute of every day. 

Part of this growing figure of course includes all of us from the arts - theatres, directors, actors, costume designers and other great people within the industry. It’s something that everyone is having to harness in order to keep up with the digital age. 

From a business point of view, to use social media as it was intended - to communicate with others instantly and easily; to share updates, images, ideas, casting opportunities; to promote, sell and hype shows; build relationships plus much more - makes it a fantastic tool with so many benefits.

For actors they can use social media as a platform to get themselves noticed, particularly for when they are part of a performance; as well as engaging directly with their followers. 

It’s also a great tool for audience members, who can follow their favourite theatres and actors; get swept up in the excitement of a performance; plus, they can leave instant reviews and recommendations.

We now live in such a fast-paced world where everything can be done within seconds and all by a touch of a button. 

It seems that nothing these days is private – it’s all for public consumption! I still find it hard to get my head around this, but this is the way the world is evolving and we need to get involved or we’ll get left behind.

As good as I believe social media is - with all the positives, unfortunately come the negatives. 

Everyone is a critic. But when using social platforms, we can hide behind our phone or computer screen and maybe write something that we wouldn’t normally say to someone in person. Maybe a very harsh performance review, a verbal attack on a theatre, or a negative comment towards an actor on their appearance. 

From being both an actor and a director, I know how much hard work goes into a performance. We put our heart and soul into it, so getting negative reviews or cruel comments from others, can be very hard. 

It’s especially more difficult for our valued performers, who can be away from their family for weeks or months on end and receive this type of online negative treatment. It can add dramatically to the anxiety, depression and other mental health issues that are sadly prevalent in our industry. 

I touched on this is a recent blog.

We need to recognise that those of us within the arts have chosen this industry because it is where we thrive. We want to entertain audiences and help them escape from reality for a few hours! So being torn down on Facebook for doing something we love, hurts.

Everyone has an opinion; they are of course entitled to it. With social media we need to mindful about the type of content we are creating, and not be too quick to write something negative, discouraging or judgemental to those who are, in fact, just doing their job. 

Social media can certainly either be your friend or your foe. What have your experiences been?

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