For the month of January, the plan was to deactivate my Facebook account. Facebook was starting to make me feel gross. Instead of celebrating my playwright friends, I was jealous of all of them. I was depressed. It was all bad. I very quietly deactivated it on Christmas and thought for sure I’d be able to go until January 31st.
Couple of problems.
1.Everyone and everything kept trying to call me back. Friends would mention in conversation “Did you see my post?” I’d say no and then they’d say “Oh it’s too long to explain.” People would also post about needing help and wanting to reach out. I’d miss that too. And then–the very reason I left in the first place, people would ask “Did you see XXX’s news about their new play?” Or “when you’re on Facebook, you’ll see what I’m talking about.”
2. Because I’m an insane person, I’ve decided to direct while I’m already slammed at work. Guess where I need to go to find an SM? To maybe do outreach for actors? To promote the show? Facebook.
3. WIWP has a reading on the 15th in Dallas as part of Cheers to New. I have friends in Dallas. How do I get my friends in Dallas to see the show? How do I promote it? FACEBOOK.
How did we get here? How is this the new normal?
I thought I’d feel super disconnected when I disabled my Facebook account. It’s why I didn’t outright delete it. But I didn’t. I realized the people I wanted to talk to, I still talked to. And the people who wanted to talk to me still found a way. It was a much smaller number but that was okay. It was okay to only really talk to about three people and have deep conversations instead of liking a million posts but not even knowing that person’s middle name.
I also noticed I felt less anxious about “not doing well.” Facebook makes me feel like I need to be constantly doing something. Like I constantly need something to post. Me as the product needed to be on demand. And I hated that feeling. It got to a point where if a post didn’t get enough likes I assumed the opportunity wasn’t as big of a deal when really they’re all big deals. Anytime my play is read or performed in front of any audience…that’s a miracle to me.
And not just that I wasn’t getting produced enough but also that I wasn’t producing enough. That I wasn’t writing constantly on top my 50-70 hr work week. That I didn’t have multiple plays in the works. It was draining me out.
Once I got off, I noticed how this productivity need had followed me into real life. A friend on the phone asked why I didn’t submit to any conferences this year (something I’d already explained). Another friend asked why I didn’t have an agent yet and had I contacted XXX because they were looking for someone (I had and they weren’t looking for me). And another friend asked what play I was working on and when I said I wasn’t working on anything really that friend genuinely didn’t believe me. I see people and before they ask how I’m doing, they ask what I’m working on. What’s next.
I get that it’s enthusiasm. And I love that people want to see me succeed. My first couple of years here it felt like no one really gave a shit about me so to have a community of people rooting for me is extraordinary. And thank you to each and every one of you.
But I need some room to breathe. I need to know that I can fail and that’s okay. That you’ll still be around. That I have a community to come home to if I strike out.
I read an article about how not only are we (artists) selling our work, we’re also selling ourselves. I felt this immense pressure to create a FB page for playwriting separate from my personal page. And people ask frequently “What’s your brand?” I’m not a brand. I’m a person. Do I really need to market myself the same way someone markets fast food? Am I cheap and easy or am I luxurious and surprisingly affordable?
Weirdly, only Facebook made me feel like I was product instead of a person. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why that is. On Instagram, I mostly only post pictures of Pepper and Charlotte. On Twitter, I usually post passing thoughts. It’s more like a public one-liner notebook. No other social media site made me feel as shitty as Facebook did. Was it because I interacted with them differently?
I guess part of Facebook making me feel like a product was (is) my fault.
I know the Facebook conversation isn’t new. I don’t think social media is the devil and ruining communication. (Fun fact: People have always been against new forms of communication. Even newspapers were originally controversial.) And I think it’s incredible how companies are able to get out of website fees by creating a Facebook page. We’re able to market ourselves like never before and break out of regions like never before. If it wasn’t for social media (not Facebook, another site) I wouldn’t have any success honestly. My first production wasn’t in my region. And I doubt I’ll have a production in my region any time soon. Anything that connects us coast to coast is amazing.
But. I had to take some time to remind myself that just because I can be marketed that doesn’t mean I have to be all the time. I don’t have to be “on brand” 100% of the time. Just because I am efficient and can stay on top a lot of different projects at once, that doesn’t mean I have to do that all the time. Currently, I have four jobs. And still can’t pay my bills. Like at a certain point, efficiency has to pay off and it isn’t. So what’s the point?
So what’s the takeaway?
I tell my friends (frequently) that to me the point of life is to be happy. If something makes me unhappy, I avoid it. Or I cut it out of my life. I don’t mean unhappy like a small inconvenience. I’m talking about true, uncomfortable, unbearable unhappiness. If something makes me feel like that, I cut it out.
Facebook and I needed to break up. But like every good productive break up, it really was just that I needed to re-evaluate our relationship. Do I think social media is bad? No. I don’t. Do I think the need to be constantly performing and producing is? Yes. I used to admire people who died in their office because that’s how committed to their job they were. Now I pity them. There’s gotta be more than that.
What’s this got to do with playwriting? Literally everything. Think about it. How often do you like something you don’t give a shit about? How often do you post about how cool your life is? How much time do you spend curating how sexy the artistic experience is when you probably should be writing? How many selfies? How many posts of plays? For what?
I told myself I had to be careful what I posted and how I posted it. Why though? Facebook has yet to actually give me a new opportunity. It’s all just a huge circle jerk.
So if it doesn’t matter, why are we acting like its God? Why are we obsessively counting likes? Over editing our pages. Literally curating a picturesque experience.
I don’t think the solution is to leave Facebook or any other social media site forever. But I think it’s making you feel crummy, maybe it’s time to evaluate its actual value over its perceived value.
Life’s too short to be unhappy because only three people liked your post.