Eric Mulholland, ‘Facebook: View from a Theater Artist’

Posted in Blogs, Theater and Dance

ERIC MULHOLLAND, Nov. 16, 2012

I’ve been an actor for nearly 25 years and I love it.  As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing better than witnessing live theater  the lights dim, the actors enter the stage, the audience stirs and off we go.  The experience of watching a live story unfold in real time thrills me.  So you can imagine how irritated I felt when the Internet started wiggling its way into my life.  It seemed to come at me from all sides, enticing me to spend countless hours on social networking sites.  I was surprised at how quickly I began to trade live theater for a night of YouTube and email.

And then came Facebook.  After a few months of using it, I began to think it was a real drag. Logging on felt like I was volunteering to go back to high school and subject myself to the shallow conversations that littered the classrooms and hallways.  Trying to keep up with my “friends’” ever evolving status updates, I began to question if reading about their mundane activities had any real value.  How was this adding to our connection as friends?  It was beginning to feel like the superficiality I experienced in high school.

Then one day as I scrolled through the news feed and read another litany of complaints about traffic and “mean people,” I decided to click on the profile of a friend I’d known since I was a teenager, long before Facebook was on the scene.

On her page was a myriad of pictures and posts describing her life in full detail.  It was like peeking into her diary and having permission to read all the juicy details.  There were pictures of childhood adventures, the bad dress she wore to prom in the 80’s and comments describing her social and political views.  How had we been friends for over 20 years, and yet until I became her friend, I didn’t know half the stuff I learned in the 20 minutes it took me to read her Facebook page?

And then it hit me … people have a need to tell their stories.

Now, I admit that I am still old school and prefer my storytelling to be a live experience.  There is nothing like the rise and fall of a person’s voice and the ever-changing physical expressions that follow a good story.  But I have to admit … Facebook is providing a new platform for storytelling and it’s not such a bad thing.

Story has been central to humans since we first formed societies.  Whether it’s a pictorial account of hunting on the inside of caves or stories set around the campfire, humans crave connection.  We need to tell each other about our life experience in order to make sense out of this crazy world.  Sure, we’re not gathering around the fire to hear about the great hunt like our earlier ancestors did, but modern technology has ushered in something greater; a virtual “campfire.”  We gather around the warm white glow of our laptops and smart phones to read about that new haircut, how we got cut off in traffic or about the death of someone dear to us.  Whatever the story is, it’s our story and we are authoring it every day.

In this ever growing technological age where smart phones are becoming another appendage to the human anatomy, I find it reassuring that story is alive and well; that a part of this modern technological wave is affirming our basic need to tell our stories.

I believe there will always be a need to hear a live voice; to share space in real time and listen to each other describe our joy and pain.  But if this new human technology that we ingest as part of our daily nourishment affirms our need to tell a story, then bring it on.  And if storytelling is the glue that holds us together, then Facebook is a welcome page in the book of human history.

Eric Mulholland is an actor, teacher and writer living on Whidbey Island. 


Upcoming theater events:

“Big River, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is running through Nov. 18 at the Village Theatre in Everett.

The Broadway tour of “Wicked” is at the Paramount until Saturday, Nov. 18.

OutCast’s “Greater Tuna” runs for one more weekend tonight through Sunday, Nov. 18.

“Scrooge, the Musical” opens at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts Nov. 30.

Whidbey Children’s Theater in Langley presents “Willy Wonka” Dec. 7-22.


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