A Twitter Response to Daniel Evan's Article: It’s time to detoxify theatre’s social media culture

A Twitter Thread.
Published on 9th April 2019 in response to Dan Evans ‘It’s time to detoxify theatre’s social media culture’ article on The Stage.

‘The full picture’ is often reserved for the privileged few with access to it. Mediums like Twitter let the rest of us ask questions we don’t have access to ask and in a critical mass that cannot be ignored.

Part of Twitter culture IS currently toxic and, whilst I am in no way defending trolling, I would propose that with theatre this is a direct reflection of the toxic hierarchical structures which leave many feeling as if they don’t belong in buildings which are consistently questioning the absence of ‘diversity’.

Calling for ‘Twitter etiquette’ is tantamount to tone policing those that don’t benefit from the patriarchal, white, able bodied systems, elite systems at play.  More over, tone policing is shown to have a negative impact on those dealing with mental ill health.

I work hard to advocate for improving mental health in theatre but ‘humble bragging’ and fear of missing out are not negatively impacting our community because of Twitter.  

Fear of missing out and status anxiety negatively impact people who lead precarious lives at the hands of gatekeepers because it is built into this kind of culture to make those people feel as if they are not enough or are not doing enough. 

That way these people know they are disposable and are therefore more likely to compromise for an opportunity, work over their paid hours and inevitably prop up the structures that allow gatekeepers to hold onto power.

Outrage is high and nuanced debate is low because people with power have been asked to turn up to the nuanced debate for years and ignored the invitation. I cannot count the number of ‘addressing the gender balance in programming’ discussions I have turned up to in which the room is 90% women, trans women and non-binary practitioners.  

There is often a distinct absence of those with the power to change anything. This is the same when I attend panels about inclusion with a disability focus, BAME focus or the very few spaces in which class is brought into the conversation.

In the opposite example, I also sit in white middle class rooms where people pat themselves on the back for offering BSL interpretation on a Thursday and then make statements like ‘we shouldn’t have these conversations without those people in the room’ without hesitating to ask themselves why ‘those people’ don’t want to be there.

As a working class woman I stumbled into the theatre world and somehow make a living in spite of still not fully understanding it or having the network built at a fancy school behind me. I often feel stupid because I don’t know the social code or the secret rules and my mental health has suffered incredibly because of this.

The social code on Twitter is clear. On Twitter the majority of us can be there and we all have the same opportunity to speak, to ask, to question - to see that others have the same questions and that we are perhaps not so stupid after all.

Yes, in a world full of noise, people need to manage their Twitter usage to best support their mental health but this should not be proposed as a ruse to silence those who have found it a tool to speak truth to power where so few others exist.

Emma Jayne Park