Some of the harassment I have recently experienced.
Being that I am a social media manager, I use it slightly differently than the average person would. I am constantly looking for content, interacting with followers, creating content in multiple voices, finding out the news, interacting with friends, reading articles about theatre and feminism, and watching video compilations of hilarious Cockatoos. So it gets busy in there.
And that can be so unbelievably stressful, and I think I can boil it down to a very few things.
1. Everything on social media starts to matter too much.
It becomes easy (for me, at least) to analyze my every interaction with every person on the Internet to a ridiculous point. Not to mention how social media can pull our attention from really important interactions with the world around us.
2. We compare ourselves to people who may not exist
People certainly behave differently on social media than they do in real life, and we only ever see the parts of them that they choose to reveal. Typically, a person would want to show only their best self, and so we believe that that is who they are all the time. Not so. We may feel like we know a lot about a person through our online interactions with them, but it's certainly different than seeing them frequently.
3. Typed thoughts can easily be misconstrued
Oftentimes the meaning of what someone has typed is hard to read without the benefit of tone of voice and body language to help us understand what that person is actually saying. Occasionally, such misinterpretations can lead to ugly situations.
Don't get me wrong, folks, I love social media! That doesn't mean that it's all perfect all the time.
What is the best or worst thing about social media? Tell me in the comments!
I have to make one thing clear right from the get-go: I use and enjoy using Snapchat. I think the app itself is great, and I encourage folks to use it if they want to! It's a great way to send photos directly to your friends, or capture your day in your "story" and have it all go away once it's been seen by the people that you want to see it. For me, it is an issue at my work.
I work as a Social Media Coordinator for theatre companies, and one of the things that I learned very quickly is that image matters a lot. Not just the image of the company I am representing, but the images that I share and how they reflect on the people featured in them.
In this position, you want everyone to feel like you're there for them. That you support them and exist to get the word out about the great work those artists are doing. So the photos that you take or obtain should all be approved by everyone in them before they get published. Photos are the single best way to create engagement with your profiles- they are always the most viewed, favourited, liked, shared, etc. But lemme tell ya, actors are picky about what pictures they want posted. As they very well should be, because as lamentable as it is, our appearance is one of our selling points when we're being considered for a role. Should anyone look at our Facebook or website to see a different aspect of us that maybe they missed in the audition, we want to be sure that we don't look terrible in any of those photos, and especially not in the promotional material for a company/show. Which brings me back to why Snapchat stresses me out: it blurs the lines between professional/personal posting. Sure, the posts in Snapchat aren't permanent, but it's not hard to change that by saving a photo that you yourself have taken, or the person you sent it to could screenshot it and keep it that way. Let me give you a scenario:
You're on a meal break from rehearsal. Yourself and a few other cast members are coming back from grabbing food and are planning to eat in the green room. You snap a quick photo on Snapchat and put it on your story as well as sending it to the company members that you have on your profile, captioning it with something about how nice it is to hang out with your cast. Someone else in the room opens it, and shows it to the person next to them. This person, who does not have Snapchat, has a strong negative reaction to the photo, and tells you that they think they look terrible and want you to take the photo down. You explain to them that it isn't permanent and that only people in your contacts will see it, and their reaction only gets more negative. The tension between you is left unresolved, even after you take the photo off of your story.
So is that something that I as the social media coordinator am supposed to deal with? Is it the stage manager's job? Is it work related at all?
These are the questions that keep me up at night.
Theatre companies don't have Snapchat profiles (yet) so sometimes it can feel a bit like it's removed from your professional life, but a lot of folks don't see it that way. It's especially hard when people are on tour together: all of your time is work time, but most of it feels like social time. I have received videos of people rehearsing (with their backs to the camera, making me wonder if they knew that they were being filmed), I have received pictures of people sleeping (which means, again, that they probably didn't know the camera was on them) and I have even been filmed without consenting prior. Every individual is different and will feel differently about Snapchat and being on camera, but I get worried about it because the lines aren't clear. No, I obviously can't dictate how you run your personal profiles on any platform, but I can control how everything gets filtered through the company profiles. Because theatre companies don't have use for snapchat, I get worried about where that line is. Yes it is a personal post, but it still affects the people that you're working with and the way the company is viewed.
Here are my hard and fast rules about photos that I try to make clear with every group I work with before we begin:
1. Don't take pictures of people without their consent. This doesn't mean take a picture and then get someone's consent. This means that every time your intention is to take a photo, you have to let the whole room know. Some actors or directors will tell you that it's a bad time to be doing so, that it distracts them too much or that it will interfere with what they are working on and ask you to wait for another time. Some actors will ask to be excluded from the shots and you have to respect that as the social media coordinator. A director or marketer might be able to talk to that person (or to them via the SM) and tell them that they are needed for certain promotional materials, but for myself, I don't want to pressure someone into doing something I gave them no time to prepare for and whose quality is not guaranteed (because I only have an iPhone with which to take photos). Not a social media coordinator? Still applies. If you want to have photos for souvenirs of your time in the show, make sure you clear it with the people it will affect first. Rehearsal especially has to be a safe space where people can explore and be free to fail. Some people wouldn't feel comfortable exploring with the possibility of a camera in their face.
2. Don't post anything without someone's approval. This involves directly asking the question "is it okay if I post this?" and allowing everyone in the photo to have a look at it first. Someone might even say "post it but don't tag me". Prepare for lots of folks to also say "no"- you must be okay with that.
3. Check if anyone in the cast has a contractual issue with photos. This is mostly for people in my position, but I know people who have restrictions on what photos they are allowed to have on Facebook/other platforms because of an agent. Make sure that no such barrier exists before you post- but following steps 1 and 2 will give that person plenty of opportunity to tell you about it!
I have not always followed these rules in my life, but I certainly pledge to do so now and I hope that you will join me in it!