DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:
Several years ago, I signed up for an email list that posts jobs for actors. I’m not gonna say which one specifically because…well, you’ll see why. In any event, I observed that a discussion had started over the email list about proper audition protocol, and I was a tad–okay, VERY–surprised to see one particular email. The email–sent by someone that we’ll just call “Person X”–was directed at someone who had written earlier, and it was very rude…again, in the interest of not sensationalizing other people’s problems, I’m not going to drop too many specifics, but let’s just say that the email concluded with the following sentence: “So mind your own ******* business, *****.” I wouldn’t have known this were it not for the fact that Person X thought they hit the “reply” button when in fact they hit the “reply to all” button.
Say it with me now: tchhh……oooooooohhh……..
Despite being (UNBELIEVABLY) rude, I understand that sometimes passion takes over, so I gave this person the benefit of the doubt. Except that two days later, I–and everybody else on the email list–received an email from the list’s administrator. The email said that, in reaction to learning that their remarks were public, Person X sent several emails to other people on the list that were, at best, bullying, and at worst, life-threatening. The sympathy from me ends after that. If Person X didn’t understand that everything they said after their first less-than-polite email would be heavily scrutinized then they needed–and hopefully got–a harsh reality check.
On the other hand, it got me thinking about a growing trend that I’ve been noticing for the last several years, and I’m sure many others have too: thanks to the internet, private lives are becoming increasingly public, to the point where we have become afraid of expressing ourselves.
Especially with social media. I’m of the younger generation that was supposed to catch on to social media the moment it began, but I never signed up for MySpace when I was in middle school and it was all the rage, and I didn’t first set up a Facebook profile until my freshman year of college. The reason for that was because social media was this relatively new thing, and back when I was in school, “MySpace” was synonymous with “pictures of parties and drinking that were made public for all to see.” I’ve never been a huge party-goer (you can thank the autism for that), so perhaps this was a moot point. Nevertheless, I still didn’t want to be a part of “this MySpace thing” or “that Facebook stuff” because of the connotations associated with it.
I felt vindicated, though, when I started to hear a certain story popping up again and again from my peers: “Yeah, I applied for a job, but they saw pictures of me on MySpace and didn’t wanna hire me after that.” So I felt good after that. I was out, and now I had an excuse to be out–if I joined, everything I said and did would be so public that I would be vilified out of employment! I no longer had to be the “uncool” kid who didn’t sign up for MySpace or Facebook!
…Then college rolled around. I missed my high school friends. I wanted to talk to ’em. I got a Facebook account. Quite simple, really.
I would have been left behind in the dust if I hadn’t. The evolution of a global cyber-society more or less forced my hand. Social media is no longer this thing for people to post party pics on (though many still do, regrettably). Rather, it is the avatar through which we interact with the world at large. Now people are expected to have profiles on many different social media platforms, and marketers are regularly setting up Facebook pages so people can “like” them, and Twitter pages so people can “follow” them. Not having an online presence is simply crippling nowadays–on a business and a personal level.
Which is why I have two of each: a “business” profile and a “personal” profile.
On the one hand, we’re expected to have social media profiles, but on the other hand, we’re expected not to express our opinions too blatantly for fear of alienating the wrong…people (okay, let’s be honest, here’s where I should put “read: employers”). The best available compromise I could think of was to simply create two profiles for each platform. I have a “personal” profile for interacting with my friends and family, and a “business” profile for interacting with employers and colleagues, and since I don’t use a headshot, nobody has any way of knowing which of the Dave Wallaces out there is me. While I don’t have a radically different personality on my personal profiles, I’m a tad more open on those, and I take a little more risk with my humor.
Still, there’s only so much risk I can take before somebody will Google a joke I made that they will take out of context and find wildly inappropriate or offensive. There’s only so much risk I can take before employers screen my social media pages–and yes, they DO do that, click here to be amazed at the extent to which they do it. I’m not sure it’s right that my sense of expression has to be limited, though. Who in this world has ever lived a perfect life in which they never did anything they regretted?
Bottom line: I feel like hanging out in our global cyber-society is like hanging out at a party with the most conservative and humorless people in the world sometimes. Say one thing that’s even slightly undiplomatic, and even if it was in the interest of creative expression, you are branded as a moron. I’d rather not be branded as an unreliable VO talent for making a joke that some people didn’t like…but I can’t help but feel that social media’s atmosphere is such that creativity is often squashed in the interest of diplomacy.