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How much is too much?

So. It seems we are all, consistently, every day, being spied upon. By posting this, I’m exposing my nefarious interest in writing, theatre, and all things artsy. By reading this, you are exposing your interest in said topics. But…we all knew this. NO social media platform is supplying us with tools to use the internet out of charity — every piece of information about you (“Tried honeybush tea today. Didn’t like it”) is valuable to someone out there (cue the web-ad for $12 rooibos instead!).

I’m on the communications committee of Alberta Playwrights Network. One of the goals is to get the word out more, better, and further, about what we do, and what our members — playwrights — do. I use every means I can to promote myself, and particularly my work. I’m on this very blogging site, and Twitter, FB, Pinterest, and I once had a MySpace (that one is now defunct — a bit sad). A co-worker found me on linkedin, and was a bit surprised to find my whole online profile was about performing arts; he had no idea. Now, he does.

There are so, so many advantages to using these internet means to get the word out about what I’m doing. It’s free. It’s easy. It’s instant. When you’re independently producing your own shows, and barely have a budget to put the show on, free publicity is vital. And it’s not just publicity — when a show catches fire, word of mouth genuinely works…and these days, it works not just by one person telling their friend they liked your play…they tweet about it to everyone they know. This can only be good…

Except when it’s not. Besides the fact that, deep down, we KNOW these services aren’t free (everyone wants something from you, and they will get it), social media can allow you to inflate your own ego. I had a couple of truly fascinating Twitter weeks — almost everything I said was being replied to, retweeted, “favourited”. (The highlight was me simply asking if Joss Whedon’s new version of Much Ado About Nothing was being released in Canada…and @Whedonesque instantly replied with a date. Gloriousness.) I didn’t realize how much…bigger, this was making me feel, until this past week I got yet another, real-life rejection letter, and crashed, hard. How many millions of people tweet? I am, really, in the larger world nobody. I was reminded: nobody.

My Twitter colleague and fellow playwright Gwydion Suilebhan blogged recently in part about how new technologies supplant previous ones: radio by movies, then TV, now very quickly, the digital. And overall the digital has been very good for us, I truly think so. What we need to keep remembering — what I forgot for a bit — is that it’s a TOOL. Always, we must control it, and use it to keep real life purring.