Thursday, September 8, 2011


My 15 year old niece was on the TODAY show last week talking about “teens and technology,” and I spent some time with her and her 17 year old sister last week. On the TODAY show they mainly talked about cyber-bullying and text messages. I forgot the name of it but apparently there is a social networking site that makes cyber bullying easy. Why anyone would choose to go to such a place is a complete mystery to me but that really brings me to my point. These teenagers are kind of a mystery to me, as I think teenagers always are to a generation older than them. These two are smart, sophisticated kids, if I do say so – they live in New York and go to NYC public schools. The 15 year old said on the TODAY show that she sometimes has 300 messages waiting for her – she later admitted that that was not actually the truth, she was exaggerating for effect.

But here’s the real point…the 17 year old (she’s a senior in high school) told me that the kids on Facebook are changing their Facebook names so that college admissions offices can’t find their profiles, she also said “what adults don’t realize is that everything on Facebook is a joke,” she does not use Twitter – ever. OK – now here’s the real point, ready? She graduates from college in five years and she will be joining us here in our world and right now we don’t have any idea whatsoever about how we will talk to her about theatre or sell her a theatre ticket, but I can tell you we won’t be doing it on Facebook or Twitter. It’s worth thinking about, right? I actually believe that there is going to be a shift back to smaller scale, more personal interactions. Maybe it’s more a hope than a belief but I think in our work we can try to make that change happen. I only have a couple hundred friends on Facebook, what can I say, I’m old and I don’t try very hard, but still I get loads of invitations to loads of stuff and I pay attention to exactly none of it. I always thought it was because I’m old, but turns out the 17 year olds are with me.

I’m not saying we should abandon our social networking efforts just when we are getting the hang of it but I’m saying we should branch out and try to figure out in what ways the audiences of the future will want to engage with what we do. I’m never in favor of abandoning anything that works, reaching all kinds of people requires all kinds of effort, but I think we are always behind the eight ball, catching up instead of looking ahead.



Unknown said...

You are 100% correct.

It's ALWAYS been Word of Mouth. It's ALWAYS gonna be word of mouth. Social networking is just word of mouth made easy.

Meg McCarthy said...

Yes, but doesn't the ease of social networking just drown out or dilute the word-of-mouth? It becomes white noise to me....

Tony Adams said...

I think it's highly unlikely that anyone will be using Facebook or Twitter as a primary means of communication at that point. Modes of communication shift pretty rapidly.

Though I totally agree about being behind the ball. Most theatres in general suck at communicating with people outside the industry.

Lynn Baber said...

I work with teenagers a lot. I'm pretty sure I work with the ones who are in the minority: The ones who GET that communication via text and FB just isn't real. These are the teenagers who are pursuing the arts. You can't just talk to the ones who are in the drama club because they had to join some club. You have to talk to the kids who get it. You know, some kids are going to grow up to be Dance Moms. And some kids are going to grow up to be Artistic Directors and Education Directors in NFPs and Sound Designers and Stage Directors. I mean, it's not a huge group of kids, but it exists. And it does give me a lot of hope for the future of the American theatre. It's kind of up to us (parents and other grown ups)to actually say something like "You can't make a real relationship or a real friendship with JUST texting and Facebook. You can't. Hey. Let's go see a play."