Becoming An Actor: Showy social mediaDate: 30 January 2012
We need two kinds of acquaintances, one to complain to, while to the others we boast. This little gem, from the American critic Logan P Smith, is a wonderfully accurate summary of one of the less joyful sides to acting. At this point in the (not so) academic year one group is made up of your friends, and the other group is those people you want to impress – and, judging from the way social media is pushing us, the second group should be the rest of the world.
You might remember me writing, here, about my fear of impressing myself upon members of the industry – turns out, talking is important and just something I’m going to have to get used to if I want to work. As it transpires, talking to people doesn’t necessarily mean buttering yourself with glitter and tattooing ‘please sign me’ onto your eyelids. I’m not alone in having realised that, as the vast majority of my year has managed to find the elusive balance between endearing themselves to industry professionals and not coming across as having a one-track mind.
Then we come to social, or virtual, ‘networking’. Either it has a different set of rules, or people, feeling secure behind a barrier of screen and Internet, are finding it more difficult to strike a balance.
Is it okay to tweet about the household names you’re working with?
Is it okay to quote reviews that mention you?
Are you allowed to have your headshot as your profile picture?
I pose these questions as these are things I’ve seen people I know doing, and I’m not sure whether it’s people being #stagey, or whether it’s normal, allowable, behaviour.
I’m prepared to admit there might be a chance that I’m being too anal about it all and am just socially networkly inept. But, though you might show your close friends reviews/headshots etc, you probably wouldn’t take out press cuttings to show people you’ve never met before, and you certainly wouldn’t hand out your headshot to people at your first day at work – the people who do are probably the kind of people who carry a pot of glitter butter in their inside jacket pocket, next to well thumbed copy of Ovid’s Narcissus, and subscription to The Stage (not because they’ve ever read The Stage, but just so they can impress people by pretending they do).
People who you’ve never met before, or are early acquaintances, are the kind of people who can read what you tweet and see what your profile picture is - and they will probably judge you on it.
As for tweeting about famous people you’re working with, that’s just a form of name-dropping that you can’t pretend not to hear because it’s etched into the internet, and wired into your home.
Have I missed the point? Maybe being judged on it is exactly what is supposed to happen. It’s not unheard of for employers to check out their potential employees online to see what they’re really like – if a casting director were to check out your Twitter account and consequently stumble upon a review that hails you the next Hugh Grant of the acting world then they might just get you in for that American pilot they’re casting.
Or maybe they’ll be like me and think that, for all your trying, you’re just coming across like you’re trying to hide an inability. I’m not excluded from my own problem, I’m furious at my 19-year-old self for putting a review up as my Facebook status – I was, rightly, proud of my work, but all the people who would’ve been interested I could’ve, and perhaps should’ve, shown in person.
I think that Facebook and Twitter already encourage actors to become their own boasting Boswell, so it’s not surprising that I’m unnerved by the new website, Stage Status. I’m assuming this is social networking site with a stress on networking, and leaning towards self-promotion.
Stage Status is not about, by their own declaration, keeping in contact with loved ones (the biggest argument in favour of social networking sites). Apparently, “Stage Status is a place where people share a passion”. It encourages you to upload photos of shows because Stage Status is a place where everyone will be interested - to me that sounds like a licensed boasting ground.
I’m fully prepared to be convinced otherwise on this issue, and I do think that theatre should have a permanent home on the Internet for news and discussion. But for me, Whatsonstage.com, The Stage, the Guardian, Exeunt magazine and the inescapably wonderful, informative, and undeniably talented Time Out (who happen to own Whatsonstage.com, as of a few days ago…) probably cover most bases.
If you’re into a bit of showy social media then great, but as Christopher Hitchens wrote "everyone does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay" – especially if it’s an autobiography, that’s been published and distributed by the subject and author.