How We View Theatre on Facebook
An easy way to tell if someone’s into theatre is by taking a look at their past couple profile pictures. Generally you only have to scroll through a couple of photos before you find one of them in some sort of theatre setting. Theatre people enjoy expressing their love of theatre on facebook. They’ve embraced Facebook as a way of sharing theatre, though the form itself resists social media.
Facebook has cornered the market on identity. It gives users a concrete means of supervising the things they want associated with them and allows people to control how their community in real life views them. If they want their friends to know they enjoy football, they can like their favorite team’s page. If they want their neighbors to know they’re a world class baking expert, they can post a photo of them with the trophy they one. If they don’t want their boss to know what they did at a party last night, they’ll make sure those photos are hidden from their timeline. It becomes a form of performance, where facebook users ‘perform’ who they are through photos and likes.
Of course, theatre people are all about performance. Oftentimes those of us who consider ourselves to be ‘theatre people’ do so loudly, both in real life and online. Theatre is the cornerstone on which we’ve built our identity, so we post photos of ourselves backstage and share articles about the status of our favorite Broadway show to ensure our friends know how much we love the Great White Way.
And while the theatre community embraces social media, theatre itself does not. Facebook simply cannot capture the majesty of watching a show. It goes beyond the inability of live performance to be caught on video; when viewed on facebook, videos of performances have to go through another layer to reach the viewed. You don’t have the anonymity being in the audience of a show allows you when you watch a video of your friend singing the closing number; you don’t have the reassurance that no one else knows who you are or what you’re feeling. You also have to watch the performance while being reminded of who shared it with you and while being bombard with other information. Which is why, overall, facebook pages for individual theaters often seem less lively then their real life counterparts. Even when utilized well, these pages don’t just seem to have failed at capturing the essence of the show they’re promoting—they seem wrong for even trying.
Which doesn’t stop theatre people’s desire to post about their favorite art form online. They know sharing videos and stills from a performance can’t live up to the performance itself, so to combat this they post more of a backstage look at a show. They show photos of themselves and the cast goofing off during warm ups or enjoying a drink after the show. They post statuses to thank their directors. Their parents tag them in posts about how proud they are of their performance. Facebook becomes a way for them to curate the good memories they have of a show.
Which has led to theatre being more humanized on facebook. It becomes less about how good a show is and more about how much enjoyment an individual performer had. Which isn’t a bad thing—it’s nice to see one’s friends doing things they love. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to figure out a way to properly appreciate shows on social media, but for now, theatre on facebook will continue to appear subdued while the people seem splendid.