by Charisse Baxter, dramaturg
For many, social media platforms dictate time, energy, relationships, business and marketing, education, family communications, and ways to interact with the world around them. Technology is constantly evolving, on the one hand making it hard to ‘keep up’ and feel like you’re in the know, and on the other providing ever more efficient, exciting tools to explore the world. Connections are being made through time and space, families past and distanced being brought together online. During a BYU Education Week devotional Elder David A. Bednar said
“Social media channels are global tools that can personally and positively impact large numbers of individuals and families. And I believe the time has come for us as disciples of Christ to use these inspired tools appropriately and more effectively to … accomplish the Lord’s work” (“To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood”, Aug. 19, 2014]).
As Paul promised the Romans, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (8:28), and that includes advances in technology, science and worldwide communication. It’s exciting! Of course, along with the opportunities for positive impact, we also know that there is a very real danger of the Internet and online activities drawing our attention and taking up time to excess. We have been warned:
“[Social media] creates a false reality. Everyone posts their most fun, adventurous, and exciting pictures, which create the erroneous impression that everyone except you is leading a fun, adventurous, and exciting life. Much of what appears in your various social media feeds is distorted, if not fake” (President & Sister Nelson, “Hope of Israel”, June 3, 2018).
This production of An Ideal Husband takes the wide variety of social media platforms for granted, and also demonstrates some of the difficulties inherent in wrapping up so many of our relationships in online influences rather than face-to-face communication. To get a fuller picture and separate the real from the fake, the cast agreed to take part in a new round of President Nelson’s 2018 ‘seven-day fast’ challenge. We collectively agreed to delete our apps and take a break from online life for the first week of November (yes, in spite of the election). Here are some of the things we learned (besides that people can get news updates from places other than their social media feeds...). Sophie Lewis: “It was so nice to be off social media for the election. It reduced my stress level and reduced how much I was comparing my crazy life to the happy moments of those I love who I follow. I will be redownloading social, but I do need to limit my use a bit more. Obviously no other week will be as volatile as this past week, but when stuff gets volatile like that again, I can shut it off. That is nice to know.”
Isaac Maltby: “I loved it, and it was much needed, but I will be honest, at the beginning I was surprised at how hard it was, especially when I had down time – it was hard not to look at a feed of some sort. But, I will say the time that I saved by not looking at my phone resulted in tons of productivity.”
Alexis Winn: “…my social media fast was a little hard at first but I’m thankful to be staying out of all the polarizing, negative things about the election that were stressing everyone out all week by seeing it on their feed all day.”
Tiffany Gibbons: “I will definitely be continuing my social media fast, at least for the next few days. It was very uncomfortable for the first few days, and I noticed myself clicking on random apps (they filled in the empty holes where the deleted social media apps were before) without thinking about it. After a few days though, I noticed my anxiety level was much lower than it has been for a while…
“I have also been better at being present in the moment – I’ll go on a long walk (that I normally would have posted about to brag, asking for validation) and instead it’s really just something I do for me that people don’t need to know about for it to be valid.”
Skyler Denfield: “For the social media fast this week, I feel that it has been so lovely to be disconnected. I’m sure there has been a lot of anxiety and frustration regarding the election, and I’m grateful to have not taken part in that! There are so many other beautiful things and people in the world right in front of me, and there is so much to experience and appreciate that I often miss when I am too focused on social media or get lost in reading posts or watching videos. Also, I feel that I have become closer to my Savior by focusing on things that He would want me to prioritize. I’m grateful to have taken the opportunity to be more mindful and thoughtful in my living this week. I think, through this experience and others, I’m learning the same lesson that Robert learns! That how you appear in the public eye doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you treat and care for those that you love and appreciate the beauty of God and His creations.”
One of the many blessings of theatre is that working on a play like An Ideal Husband is an ongoing reminder that we can accomplish wonderful things together, in real life, even when we are separated by necessity and distance. We are so grateful for the online technology that allows us to prepare and present a digital play, and we are excited about the real life (not fake!) talent and effort that has made it all possible. This holiday season is a perfect time to reach out again to family and friends; while social media can help with that, now might also be a terrific opportunity for you, if you are interested in taking up the challenge, to step away from Facebook and Instagram and Twitter to share your love and testimony of the Savior in person (safely distanced, on the phone, or via Facetime, Skype, or Zoom!). We love you and so appreciate your support!