Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Social Networks: A Time and A Place

Recently, while standing in line to sign out after another day filming [ censored ] in the glorious city of [ censored ] in [ censored ], a fellow background actor commented that he thought that Twitter was a waste of time.

I tried vainly to argue in favor of it, from the viewpoint of it being a great marketing tool and a great way to update sports scores. However, he then asked me what could I do on Twitter that I couldn’t do on Facebook? The best thing I could say was that redundancy can be good sometimes.

I should also point out that, at the end of the last big scene of this movie, the director [ censored ] brought up a bunch of the stars, including Diane [ censored ], James [ censored ] and about six others to congratulate them. Their roles in the film were done and we bid them a fond farewell.

It was one of those “Saturday Night Live” bits where everyone is on stage, while the audience applauds and cheers until blood runs down their forearms and their vocal chords snap. There were movie cameras and crew milling about. The only thing missing -- a social networking aspect.

No doubt, you’ve been wondering why the “[ censored ]” has been appearing all over this blog. The producers of this film are adamant that the world’s social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter not let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. To that end, all of us involved in making the picture had to sign confidentiality agreements.

Other than the fact that I’m equating myself with the people who actually do all the hard work in making these movies, one thing was clear. We could not talk openly about this movie. Nor were any pictures allowed to be taken. While this is usually a hard, fast rule on any movie set, on this particular film, it was aggressively enforced, with threats of legal action. And, although I can’t mention the production company that has been kind enough to pay me, the founder of this company deprived a lot of men from seeing Annette Funicello in a bikini. So, his company does have some clout.

Anyway, one of the most rigid rules of the confidentiality agreement was that we not talk about the film on any social networks. We cannot mention particulars on FB or tweet where we are filming. Some of the backgrounders, especially those who live and die by Facebook, may have a hard time keeping to this , but I’ve been in the game long enough (21 years...actually, four years stretched out over 21) to pay heed. In fact, having been described by this film’s director as “one of our most reliable background actors,” I think I’d get no slack for slipping up. Some people might even by "molly-fied" (inside joke, sorry).

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m angling that the confidentiality agreement and ban on pictures was an attempt by the powers that be to circumvent the amazingly quick social networks that can make or break things, whether it’s right or wrong. Social networks like FB, MySpace and Twitter get information out to the general public so fast that, reportedly, people in eastern Libya found out about the NATO air strikes from Twitter before they saw the smoke. 

It can alter even the most ardent routine. Some artists like Public Enemy have taken to only releasing their material online, believing that they’ll get faster responses than by the traditional routes. And, with so many leaks these days, whether its leaked songs or Wikileaks, it's trouble just keeping up sometimes.

Speaking of Wikileaks, there’s a down side, too. Despite the best intentions of the production company of my movie, things still leaked out. The lead female's pics appeared on about a dozen blogs and social nights before I even got home from the set Saturday night. And how can you stop it? The fans and stargazers at the set were exercising their right to freedom of speech after all. 

All this means that social networks do figure into the entertainment world with great prominence. Even I, as anti-social as they come, do use the social networks of the world.

For one thing, I sort of have to. As a professional sports writer, I rely on Facebook, MySpace and, yes, even Twitter to get my stories to the general public.

Perhaps it is this reason why I don’t use the same social networks as much for my science fiction and horror. As anyone in the news biz can tell you, reporters are far more comfortable reporting the news instead of being it.

Plus, I just can’t hang with what’s going on with these social sites anyway.

I often chastise my nieces, nephews et al for getting too personal on social networks. Why the [ bleep ] would I care that you just had your first bowel movement in a week?

Sometimes I think that Twitter should be renamed “TMI!”

Well, that's a blog for another time.

That said, I will mention a dirty word -- censorship. Normally, I hate it, but, with social networks, I actually favor a modicum of it. If only to save us from ourselves. Especially if your last name happens to be Sheen. Or if you happen to be a blonde UCLA student who thinks all of America’s ills can be blamed on Asians. Or if you're a Jersey girl.

Suffice it to say that I don’t regularly use social networks, outside of my professional work. Does it hurt my efforts to get people to notice my ficiton? Probably. I cannot say for certain because I really don’t know if anyone would notice if I posted a story amidst all the rambling posts people put on FB and Twitter.

But, who am I to decide?

They say that any publicity is better than no publicity at all.

Really? Just ask Gilbert Gottfried.

Social networks can vary from useful to completely necessary. Just watch what you say or do.

The Electronic Age of Enlightenment is too often dogged by its insufferable siblings The Age of Stupidity and The Age of Selfishness.

In other words, be social, but not TOO social.


  1. Well said, my friend.
    Some guy wrote, "There is a Season, and a time and a place unto Heaven."
    Thing is, he didn't finish the instruction manual, and we've been trying to figure it out for thousands of years.
    Maybe Twitter won't have the benefit of your sparkling fingers today, but, no doubt, part of this story will be told some other time and place.
    Until then, I guess we just have something to look forward to.
    Of course, I'll have something more to say tomorrow.

  2. Thanks, Sharon. I'll try to read your post tomorrow when I get home from the set.

  3. Very interesting post, my friend. The truth of the matter is I only started all of this with MySpace in order to keep an eye on my oldest and his social networking (he was 13 or 14 then). I followed him over to Facebook, but by then it was due to this writing career that I was hoping to start. I use Twitter as well, along with Goodreads and Shelfari. If and when I give up all of this...we'll have to see.
    I'll look forward to the gag (order) being removed so we can hear about this project.
    Take care,


  4. A great summary in those last nine words! And loved the journey getting there. (Even if some of it got censored!)