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  • Scott Carter Cooper

Social Media No More


I think I joined Facebook in 2009 after avoiding all things social media in its infancy. The avalanche of emotion that followed my joining Facebook really cannot be described. I’ve had many chapters in my life and they all came crashing onto my computer screen with dozens of people from these different chapters flooding back into my consciousness, if not exactly into my life, every day; people I barely knew, people with whom I had unresolved issues, people I had loved and lost, and people I had never wanted to hear from again.


A major college reunion happened as people who had been instrumental in my psychic development all reconnected – a major event for which I am eternally grateful. Insight into organizations I otherwise would know nothing about became easy to find. Wonderful pictures of babies, and then a constant water-drip of death and illness announcements. Cultural awareness and social education that would not have been possible without Facebook.


After many years of limiting myself to Facebook, I branched out on to Instagram. More pretty pictures. I was briefly on Twitter, but that’s an electronic sewer and it’s where the social media rot became screamingly apparent, and I stopped using it.


1983 was a watershed year for me and those years are painful and messy. There were a lot of unresolved issues originating from that year, and social media went a long way in helping me resolve them. But in 2016 I became aware that social media also was keeping some of those issues alive. I tried to modernize certain relationships, bringing certain people with me into the twenty-first century, but in many cases the people who were 1983, remained 1983 and for my own health and happiness I had to let them go and remove them from my friend list. As far as I can tell, I haven't been missed. And that's a good thing.


In recent years, I’ve become more sensitive to the performative nature of social media – Facebook especially. I’m just as guilty as the next person of posting scolding pronouncements and witticisms. I think I’ve been pretty responsible with regard to other people’s perspectives and opinions. I’ve made friends with people I’ll never actually meet and cut ties with people who were not the people I had thought they were. But the fun has gone out of social media for me. I still love the pictures of children and grandchildren, and whenever someone – even people I don’t know personally – post about a personal or professional victory I am often the first to click the like/love button. Nothing makes me smile wider than seeing an actor post about being cast.


But more and more, social media has become a place where people perform their own personal enlightenment and demonstrate that not only are they on the right side of every political issue, but they also claim the right to lecture, belittle and condemn others who might have a different view. Perhaps there are some who have genuine thoughts and feelings on a particular topic. In fact, I’m sure that there are. But more and more these posts come across as self-important and self-promoting, which feels to me to cheapen the posters and the issues. I am aware of the irony of making that statement online, but here we are.


With regard to developments within the Chicago theatre community, I am a big supporter of the changes that are happening and that are not happening fast enough. Currently there is more drama surrounding Victory Gardens that I’m following with great interest. I’m impressed with the way the theatre makers of that organization are banding together and refusing to accept a diminished role from the people who control the purse strings. I’ve followed the developments in that organization for the past several years with great interest because it does seem to be on the cutting edge, if not the bleeding edge, of change in the Chicago community. And what support I can offer, I do.


I, however, do have some criticisms. The biggest is that in all of the discussions about equity, diversity, and inclusion, rarely is there any devotion to the needs or interests of the audience. In my opinion, not only is that a failure of administrations of evolving organizations, but it’s also the failure of the artists demanding change. The audience is king in the theatre, not the artist and not the donors. It's the audience. It's always the audience.


Change is messy, and often times it’s painful. I support the artists pressing for that change at Victory Gardens. But Victory Gardens is not an organization that would ever choose my work to produce. That’s not a complaint. That’s a fact. And I have to wonder if my support has enough value to outweigh the very real possibility of it also being a bit exploitive. A white playwright putting his name on a pledge to never work with an organization that would never work with him in the first place does help to increase the numbers of people who are publicly announcing support, but it also shows just what a good, right, enlightened person I am. In the end, does that really benefit anybody?


Over the past year or so, I’ve been much more conscious of my online profiles, and I’m trying to be more responsible with my participation in social media. I don’t want my personal life to be content. I don’t want to scold, educate, or even inform anyone of anything. There are plenty of people doing it, some very well but most not nearly as well as they think.


So, for the foreseeable future, I’ll be stopping by Facebook and Instagram to see what shows people are doing and to seek out videos of giggling babies. I’ll share artistic announcements when I have them and I’ll like and support as many posts of various natures as I’m able. But I’m moving on, social media. Your novelty has worn off. You’ve brought a lot of good things into the world, exposing a lot of social rot. But you’ve become corrupt and toxic to a degree that I can no longer tolerate.

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