Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Bane and Bliss for Public Personalities in the Age of Social Media

From Twitter to Facebook, from Yelp to Foursquare, from Vine to Instagram, and even Youtube, the list of social media sites, apps, and venues grows daily.
For most of us we share – or rather over-share – our thoughts, moods, activities, and for some inexplicable reason, photos of our lunch. We make long distance friends and foes, we network and make professional connections far beyond the scope of what we could locally without the wide ranging reach of the internet. Sounds like something good – a positive aspect of technology, albeit one we must use carefully and responsibly for our own safety as well as sanity. Certainly many a life has been derailed by internet based breaches of privacy, personal photos and data being seen by the wrong parties…but also true love has been found, and lifelong friendships formed. As with everything of power and influence – it is a double edged sword to be wielded with care, precision, and wise judgment.

There is however a group among us who do not have the freedom to utilize this tool, this communication medium, as the rest of us do. Those in the public eye – be they politicians, actors, community or religious leaders, artists, writers – have a tightrope walk in using social media that to me seems painful to judiciously maintain. While it should be equally theirs to utilize as we all do for self expression, as well as to share and promote their works, causes and the like, it is also an obscenely widely viewed platform through which every word they utter, every image they share is dissected, far more than anyone cares to do with the posts of the Plain Jane or Joe down the road.
While some in the limelight, choose to do as James Franco is known for and flood us with ‘selfies’ and his every victory and foible, and even his half hearted mea culpas (Dude, I get it, I really do. Poor judgment at times I grasp, photo-documenting it for the world is a not so clever habit even if followed by a ‘whoops, I made a mistake’), or the celebutante who compulsively Instagrams her ‘assets’ which prompted her mate to tweet that he was rushing home in record speed (SO much more info than I EVER needed to be privy to),  other ‘public’ folks have their managers or some designated writer handle their account so that the public image projected is fully controlled data and image wise. To me the over sharing as well as the posting (aka marketing) via a mouthpiece is of equal imbalance at different ends of the spectrum, but I’d actually favor Franco’s honest albeit narcissistic approach to it all.

Yet – while authenticity is paramount to me in all things, even more vital of course is protecting oneself – including ones career.

So where is the line – for a ‘celebrity’ - between being a person who has social media accounts, and accounting for being a public persona who must watch the public impressions made? Is this media vehicle wonderful for sharing projects, fund raising efforts (the arts or causes), stirring social awareness on issues they are impassioned about? OR is it truly a bane in which they must – and maybe personally used to want to - express and connect and now must be so guarded for their own safety and image that it is a burden to self censor?

The other night I was on Twitter and saw a fabulous tweet posted by a rather brilliant actor and then quickly deleted, only to be replaced by what was, for lack of a better term, a ‘less controversially expressed’ new tweet. Both were clever, witty, and made me grin. What made me feel a deep pang of ‘damn that is a shame’ is that this person felt the need – and a TRUE judicious need it indeed sadly is – to censor himself. What he would have freely posted even a few months back, now had more filter imposed on it. The double edged-ness of an expanding presence in the limelight, perhaps. So he was aware, wise in his choice, and still funny as heck – so what’s MY issue?

Firstly I totally agree with what he did. My issue is not with his choice nor with his replacement post…my issue is a social reflection I guess you could say. How ironic that someone in the profession of expression in so many forms has to censor the expressional choices of his own thoughts and words.

In so many ways, every day, just about every person on the planet feels the need to dim who they are, to fit into a mold, to conform to what is expected/desired/accepted. That is one of the deepest human tragedies in my not so humble opinion. It is at the root of insecurity and fears, ego (a different form of fear) and self-deception, that leads to violence, bullying, abuse… in various forms and levels. If we lose our freedom to express how we desire to, do we not also lose a portion of who we are? How do we preserve our voice, how does it retain its own cadence, if we choose to subjugate it? Even the honest, the confident…all bend, hide, and dim somewhat… to please a parent, to keep a job, to maintain friendships, to attract love, to generate fame. We must. We all censor what we say and post (the world – or at least my world - would surely implode if I said even a fraction of what comes to my mind!). We must. Perhaps in those whose priority it is to show off their latest botox, that isn’t such a bad thing…. BUT… in general, and most DEFINITELY in some very special cases….it is SO sad to me that to thrive, perhaps even to survive, we must censor, diminish, re-post.

There is a radiance, a brilliance, an invaluable perspective that certain special minds and souls have. Some end up as actors, writers, musicians, sculptors, or dancers…..Some are the quiet guy in the corner of the coffee shop who reads a book there for hours every day, some are a housewife, an athlete, a model, an accountant. To me as long as you maintain your special acuity, your unique, even quirky vision and expression…it doesn’t matter to me what status or career you hold (those can be fleeting and are just potential products of you using your gifts wisely), who you ARE is what matters. To dilute that in any manner, is sad.

I get it… I do. I see the rabid fans and the outlandishly scary things they say and ask. I know how having so many people watching you must feel (for reasons not to be explained here, I do personally know). I know how people – not all but too many – seek to pry, to twist a phrase to sound like something unintended to create drama, rumor, innuendo, to shed a different light on you…as if it pathetically makes them feel important to create a persona of you all of their own wishes and fantasy and not at all fact based.

I get it. The choice to censor, edit, re-post is RIGHT, it IS judicious. It also sucks. Those who simply value and appreciate a certain sense of humor, a creative and brilliant mind that sees things and explores and expresses and portrays them with a unique perspective and true to life flare….THOSE readers/viewers of yours…are just thrilled you ‘tweet/post among us’ and choose to share a glimpse of how you saw a part of your day. That inspires, it makes us laugh (and to get some of us to laugh is no easy feat!), it makes us relate to you as a real person, not an image, and at least for me that makes me appreciate your artistry MORE as it shows the diverse range of your gifts. Bottom line is, (in the specific case that sparked this blog), I am grateful you found a way to censor, re-post, and still be you – please don’t ever silence that. Not. Ever.

I began this blog to ask those in both social media and in the entertainment industry, if they see social media as a publicity boon….or bane? Or both?

(I apologize as I also digressed into what is my apparently not so latent resentment for the inappropriately obsessed contingent of fandom. Part of the challenge of social media as well - Everyone wants a Twitter follow or retweet (what pray tell is the big woohoo of someone clicking a button to retweet what you yourself posted, if not helping you promote a cause or project or such!?!?), a FB friending…as if that gives them validity in the heart of their chosen celeb target(s). How about a sanity check. How about being of true value to someone by being supportive of their work, by expressing respectful admiration for what they do. Give them ratings not grief! Nope, guess that is not enough….I just may never fathom the random Twitter marriage proposals, personal life Instagram interrogations and stalking. And may I say, for as much as I like to understand everything, it comforts me that my psyche cannot conceive of the lunacy behind all that rubbish. It ruins so much for the person on the pedestal as well as for those fans with both feet in reality who may just want to communicate something of import, and get lost in the sea of the delusional. It makes a blog like a recent one of mine, that is important to me in its sincerity, its gratitude, and my desire for a certain outcome for another project, to sound as if it could be more generic kissing up and it’s not! Again – sorry, I digress.)

I would truly love to hear from those who work in social media, in entertainment reporting, from actors/writers/producers/musicians…. Is social media a safe place – a beneficial place – still an enjoyable place… for those in the limelight? In total respect for everyone’s privacy, feel free to DM on Twitter, email, message me on FB etc. No quotes, no names, just for my own edification. 

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