Where does your career end and your personal life begin? Where does your digital world end and your real world begin?
As a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (EMMYS), I’m currently invited to a lot of For Your Consideration screenings and events around Hollywood. At a recent FYC screening for WESTWORLD, Jonathan Nolan, the co-creator of the show, had some very insightful words about the dangers of “people becoming brands” via social media. He cautioned that he sees social media as THE precursor to Artificial Intelligence (as seen in Westworld) and warned of the mental health dangers when human beings start viewing themselves as a product.
I don’t disagree.
I have seen and heard firsthand the aftermath of being on a reality tv show and the meltdown of numerous social media influencers. I have seen talent suffer from: severe mental health issues, narcissism, delusion, irritability, alienation, FOMO, and more as a result of the pressure to constantly post and share themselves and their content online. That said, I also have seen the positives of social media and it’s influence to quickly share your work to the widest possible audience. The positives are also strong: social change, entrepreneurship, creativity, breaking news, creating real world community, and public safety, to name a few. These are all possible results from an engaged and active social footprint.
(the cast and creators of Westworld)
The next day, after I pontificated more about what Mr. Nolan had to say, I was still two headed about it:
“ ...Yes, he’s right...viewing yourself or another person as a brand/product is ultimately dangerous and unhealthy for the human race...but wait, maybe his POV is right for non-industry people, but most creatives in this industry are already trained to think of themselves as a product, institutaion, corporation...how is social media truly affecting an already ingrained mentality?...”
While I believe the social media train has long left the station, I do think there is a way we can make it work for us, professional storytellers in media who truly want to use it to get our work out there, in a healthy way. The question I’d like us all to ask ourselves is: Where does my entertainment industry life end and my personal life begin? (this is probably a good question to ask whether you’re on social media or not)
I’d like you to consider that if you’re not engaging your digital communities/audiences to create community/audiences in the real world...you’re missing a big opportunity of what social media can do for you...create trust, transparency, and honesty. The choice is yours. Take another selfie on set?...or ask your colleague to take a pic of the cast and crew to share a communal joyful moment. We are tribal creatures afterall. There’s no vulnerability in a selfie, but a connection can be made when you ask for help to have another human being take your picture. One leads towards isolationism, the other leads to connection and a thoughtful shared experience.
(from L to R: Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, Thandie Newton, Sam Harris, James Marsden)
I believe a step toward creating a healthy social media practice and sustainable mental health is about BOUNDARIES. That’s it. Setting a boundary around your time and the limited number of conversations you truly want to engage in and be responsible/known for is critical to keep a strong sense of self and positive outlook on life and online.
To that aim, here are 3 ideas on how to create and build a personal brand in the digital world, the healthy way:
To conclude, I’m not sure how far away we are from living in a world that has the ability to create a town like WESTWORLD, but I do know, just like in the real world, we must create healthy boundaries and structures around what’s public vs. private, and how much time we spend engaging in our digital world. I don’t see anything wrong with using social media to promote our work...but consider it’s just that: Work. Our work is what we do, NOT who we are. I implore us all to not only use these tools as a way to “get our face/projects out there”, but as an opportunity to cultivate and strengthen our communities in the world that matters most...the real world.
About Brian Rodda
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